The Ultimate Guide To Planning Your F3 Year
by Holt Doctors
16 March 2021
It’s been a long two years of foundation training, projects, portfolios and all those hours… DONE. Some doctors choose to go straight into specialty training, but each year, more and more people are choosing to do an F3 year.
With the rise in F3 years, comes the fall of F2 doctors that continue directly into specialty training*:
- 34.9% (2019)
- 37.7% (2018)
- 42.6% (2017)
- 83% (2010)
There are good options for you to choose from as to what you spend your F3 year doing before you enter your specialty training, get in touch with Holt Doctors and one of our specialist recruitment consultants can guide you through every step of the way.
*2019 F2 Career Destinations Survey
- Why take an F3 year?
- What can I do in an F3 year?
- How does an F3 locum get paid?
- A timeline for F3 locuming and bank work
- What is your next step?
Why take an F3 year?
The pressure and stress mentioned above is why, for some, the decision is made to take a gap year out and travel, read a doctor's travel experience here. You may want to see the world and experience different cultures, have a deserved break from the years of dedication and training that has taken you up to this point at the start of the rest of your career.
It’s a good opportunity to find the work/life balance that is right for you, which is important to sustain your energy and interest in the job and avoid burnout - you may be keen to work, but everyone needs a break.
You will also have flexibility with what you do. You may wish to remain in the UK and work on a project or additional education, both of which are great opportunities for you to build up your CV.
With your newfound flexibility, you can work on these and also work as a locum.
This way you can pick the shifts that fit with the rest of your schedule, as well as having the flexibility when deciding which medical posts to take based on where you want to work and which department you want to work in.
If you have managed to save wages whilst in training, you may also have the further financial flexibility to support you in whichever decision you make.
Some take a short break and then go back into training the following February.
With the previously mentioned drastic change in people going straight into specialty training, dropping from 83% in 2010 to 34.9% in 2019, this is now far more common and acceptable, and you will not face any barriers to doing so.
An F3 year gives those finishing their FY2 an opportunity to cement the skills that they have learned over the time of their training or learn new skills in new environments. A break from an intense few years of training to reflect on what they actually want from their career, and how they will achieve that.
What can I do in an F3 year?
There are so many options it can seem overwhelming and you need to feel confident you are making the best decision; below are the main options taken by doctors taking an F3 year, we go through the pros and cons for each:
- Agency Locum – You work for a locum agency that look for work across different trusts
- Trust Internal Bank – you will be filling in gaps in the rota at the Trust
- Trust Grade/Clinical Fellowship - You agree to a long-term contract
- Back to training the following February instead of August – often people will do their F3 year and apply to go back into training in August after a year. You can instead do an F3 for six months to go back into training in February
- Work abroad – gain new skills in new environments
Read our Q&A with Dr Cheetham who has been there and done that, in which she details her experience finishing FY2 and planning out her F3 year, and advice she has for those in that same stage of their career.
- Well paid
- Weekly pay
- Good flexibility – you can work at multiple locations and different specialties. You can also manage your shifts to have more free time, or alternatively use shifts at different Trusts to travel and explore the UK
- Choice of payment options – umbrella company, PAYE
- Recruiter contact – Holt Doctors will assign you a recruiter who will help you find roles right for you as well as supporting you with anything needed during your post. You can choose how and when to be contacted
- Unfamiliarity – with the availability of working at multiple Trusts, there may be different ways of doing things or different computer systems that you may have to adapt to
- Annual appraisals – these must be paid for through an agency. However, with the Holt Doctors CPD bonus scheme, the more hours you work, the higher the bonus. This bonus can go towards paying for your appraisals
Trust Internal Bank
- Well paid
- Familiarity – if you stay at an internal bank you will know the hospital, its infrastructure and the staff
- Good flexibility, can work across multiple specialties
- Appraisals, some Trusts will cover the costs
- Job security – Work can be inconsistent as you’re only sampling from one trust, if there is already a full rota there will be no work available
- Some Trusts will not count this as reckonable service
- If you have any problems, such as pay errors or shift clashes, you have to sort them out yourself
Trust Grade/Clinical Fellowship
- Job security and stability – usually these posts are with a one-year contract. As a substantial post, this will usually count as reckonable service
- More opportunities – as you are there for the length of your contract, there's often more availability to get a bit of hands-on time or further educational opportunities
- Personal Development – the post will appear well on your CV as well as the possibility of research opportunities
- Pay is low in comparison to other options e.g. locum work or Bank work
- Pay is usually monthly
- Loss of flexibility – you will be committed to a rota and may have issues with leave due to any staffing issues or colleague’s leave at the time
- Due to the contract type – there is usually no money owed for staying late
Back to training the following February instead of August
- Although you’re not taking the whole year out, you still have six months of freedom to do as you please (see what to do in f3 year)
- You’ll be getting ahead of the curve compared to those entering training in August
- People taking the full year away from specialty training will have a lot of time to decide, you will have needed to decide towards the end of FY2
- You’re unlikely to have the opportunity of the F3 freedom for the rest of your career, some will see doing only six months as a waste
- Working in different environments can help you further develop your skills and allow you to put them into practice outside your comfort zone
- If you don’t speak a foreign language, there are plenty of English-speaking countries that you can work in
- You will not be alone in travelling abroad to work, you will find others in a similar situation
- Although there are good English-speaking countries to work in, some posts will require another language, so your options will be if you only speak English
- You will have to plan this well in advance, organising travel, visas and accommodation can be very time consuming and not something you can leave last minute
How does an F3 locum get paid?
Moving from being an FY2 into your F3 year will have many changes for you to adapt to, and one of these is the changes in your finances. If you’re locuming as part of your F3 year, you will be earning higher rates of pay compared to the £32,691 basic pay for FY2, and this means there’s more room for adaption to your pay, with all the different tax and payment methods.
The IR35 legislation was brought in to limit tax avoidance, although this has been in place since 2017, so there shouldn’t be any sudden surprises that trip you up. However, HMRC is currently updating IR35, and whilst this information below is currently correct, payment methods are constantly evolving.
If you’re unsure about anything, ask your recruiter. They will be aware of the latest information specific to the Trust that you are looking to work at and will be able to guide you through the process.
If you choose to locum, you will have the choice of three payment methods;
- Umbrella Company
- Limited Company or Personal Service Company (PSC)
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
This a method in which, if you are a locum, the agency will deduct your national insurance and income tax from your wage before it is paid to you, as well as your student loan repayments if you have them. This is the preferred method for many due to the simplicity and ease of it.
However, this method is dependant on which Trust you’re working at. Some Trusts will choose to use a Direct Engagement scheme to pay you directly. This method means that you have to follow their procedures and complete your timesheets.
These are payroll services that can centralise your payments from all posts. Even if you are working in different roles at different Trusts, you will just have one point of contact with them instead of being in communication with the payroll of each Trust you’re working at.
‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. Make sure you thoroughly research your Umbrella Company, there will be some tax avoidance schemes that you would be well best staying clear of.
Limited Company or Personal Service Company (PSC)
You can be paid through your own PSC, however, this must align with the IR35 legislation.
A timeline for F3 locuming and bank work
It’s never too early to be researching. Even though August feels so far away at this point, it’s best to start this as soon as you can to be prepared and give yourself the best chance of thinking through all your options and deciding what it is that you want to come out of your F3 year with.
If you’re doing a trust grade or clinical fellowship, you will need to find out which locations are available and the deadlines for applications. You can apply for some fellowships that start in August from December, so it is best to be prepared and get your application in in good time.
If you’re planning to locum, it is still good to explore your options at this point and make contact with an agency for more information, but you will not need to be asking for roles in your F3 year at this point in time, as the shifts for that far ahead may not be available.
In the new year, you may start looking for opportunities. So, it’s important that you get organised and have your CV updated with all of your experience, as well as gathering all your necessary documentation:
- Annual appraisal
- Certificates (DBS, ALS/BLS, GMC, GMC Annual Retention Fee Letter, MBBS, MRCP (if applicable)
- DBS update service subscription proof
- Immunisation records
- Indemnity certificate
- Mandatory Training certificates from F2 training
The New Year
Some people want new and different environments from their F3 year. However, with relationships made at your current FY2 Trust, opportunities may open up to you before the post opportunities go out to the masses.
Speak with different departments and ask around, if there’s nothing available then you will still be appearing proactive, and could be the person that a department comes to if something opens up in the future.
Now is the time for you to decide whether you wish to do bank work or locum work. Both are good experiences with different opportunities, and it will be down to your personal preference as to which option is best for you.
Once decided, it’s time to sign up! Here you can tell the bank or the recruiter at an agency the specialty/specialties that you want to work in (you should’ve decided on this by now) and your availability.
It can be very beneficial to keep in regular contact with your recruiter and give them any updates, whether that be increased availability or if you are busy. This information is how your recruiter will find the right roles for you.
From signing up to booking shifts. Make sure you have everything set up, with bank/locum email notifications so you don’t miss any opportunities.
Keep in contact with your recruiter, ask for updates, update them with any changes. The more information and the closer the contact, the better they can find a role tailored to what you’re looking for.
As well as your recruiter working on finding your post, you can also receive updates for posts with a single or a small number of shifts together. These are good for an extra bit of money that you can fit your F3 year.
Your recruiter will have found you the role you’ve been looking for, and your F3 year will have started! There’s now the whole year for you to fit locuming or bank work around whatever else it is you’re doing with your year, whether that be travelling around, furthering your education or just adding to your savings.
You have been in close contact with your recruiter, you’ve started on the role that they found for you, things are going well. But don’t make the mistake of ceasing contact, you can still keep in touch with your recruiter, updating them with any necessary information.
Just because you have your shifts, does not mean that further opportunities won’t present themselves in the future. The more information you give your recruiter, the higher the level of service they are able to provide to you and the more likely they are to think of you should an opportunity arise. Not just for the rest of your F3 year, but for the rest of your career.
Locuming is a great way to earn extra money, no matter if you’re in F3, specialty training or fully qualified.
What is your next step?
It’s important to remember that everyone’s next step is different, different things are suited to different people. You need to make sure you choose what is right for you and aligned with what you want from your career.
Communication is key, try and speak with as many people who have had as many different F3 year experiences as you can. What did they like? What did they dislike? What would they have done differently? Hearing the reality of different routes from peers that have been through your situation may help you with your own decision.
Join thousands of other doctors in your decision to work with Holt Doctors, contracted with Trusts up and down the country to give you the first chance of their jobs.