Livin’ La Vida Locum : Moving to the UK from Australia


Decision 1: To move or not to move…

The decision to move to London was one that seemed natural and yet unplanned all at once. My Aussie speechie elders had passed down the stories of their journeys to London and something about it seemed so exciting and surreal. In 2012 I unfortunately became unwell and spent a few months off work and over this time I thought a lot about what I wanted to gain from life – did I want to stay in Queensland covered in sunscreen or did I want to move to dreary old London to embrace my moon tan. I made the bold decision to leave my (rare) permanent speech and language job and embark on that dreaded 30 hour commute to London Heathrow. Of course the months leading up to said embarkation were fraught with much pain and paperwork. Visas, HCPC applications, agency applications, police checks, making sure that I had indeed had all my vaccinations when I was a baby and of course saving, saving, saving. This has all turned out to be very worth it in the end.

Decision 2: Keep traveling? Start working?

I traveled around Europe and Africa with a friend for 5 months prior to settling in London. The ability to do this (and subsequent weekend trips) was a massive draw card to being a locum speech therapist in London. We arrived back in London in September 2013, slightly browner and with a wealth of unforgettable experiences. When we arrived, we found ourselves in a youth hostel, but neither of us knew where we would be working and finding a place to live appeared to be slightly more difficult than we had anticipated! We slept on a friend’s couch for two weeks. Being picky, I wanted to work as I had at home – in acute stroke or medicine, in a large university or teaching hospital. Little did I know that most hospitals would not consider me as I didn’t have any NHS experience.

Decision 3: Where on earth is (insert distant location name)?

My specialist speech recruitment agent at RIG Healthcare assisted in me in finding my first job in the UK, in a community position in South East London. RIG Healthcare made the process of starting work very easy. I interviewed for a number of perfect sounding roles but when I realized they were 2 hours away, changed my mind! My recruitment consultant at the time would call daily to let me know what had popped up and promised that something suitable would come soon! Telephone interviewing on a couch in your pajamas while attempting to maintain a level of professionalism was bizarre. When I secured a role, RIG Healthcare assisted me in finding a hire car to drive around with, set up an umbrella company to be paid through and were always available to answer my thousands of stupid questions. My first locum speech therapy position was three months long and catered for my desire to return back home for Christmas. The initial paycheck was also a pleasant surprise! Converting the pounds to dollars made me a little over excited. The NHS trust I worked for even offered for me to stay permanently, surprisingly after enduring awkward miscommunication moments where Australian and British English do not overlap!

Decision 4: Acute please? TV Star?

Following my return, I again traveled for a couple of months. Recruitment agencies threw community and rehab speech therapy jobs at me, but while amongst the potatoes in Ireland somewhere, I secured a position at a major teaching hospital. I worked there for four months in a high intensity Hyper-Acute stroke unit, as well as some cover for the Neurology, Cardiology and ICU wards. Working in such a huge hospital was initially daunting, but the experience was invaluable. One of my patients was even featured on a TV documentary filmed at the hospital – I promised to give him nicer food and no Aussie accent if he gave me a good wrap on TV (“his most excellent Australian speech therapist”) and a cut of his millions…

Decision 5: The job hunt resumes…

The funding for my locum speech therapy position ran out in the middle of 2014 and I again started the hunt for more work. I took a leap of faith and spontaneously booked a two week holiday to New York –an 8 hour flight seemed more appealing than 24! While at the airport, I managed to secure another Acute Stroke position, at a university hospital in South-East London. I remained in this position until it was permanently recruited for, for just over 5 months. I wish I could have stayed forever! That is a downfall of locum speech therapy work – often you are covering the permanent recruitment process and as such, can’t stay. Thankfully, though, my managers were very accommodating and allowed me to stay until, again, I went back to the sunshine state for Christmas! This surprise visit was very exciting!

I returned back to London just after Christmas and with the help of my recruitment agents, have secured another acute role in a major teaching hospital in London. My recruitment agents at RIG Healthcare have been so diligent across the 18 months I have locumed. They were aware that I was away and remained in close contact in order to find me the perfect position. Nyasha really took the time to get to know me and what it was that I wanted out of a position. RIG Healthcare is also great for being competitive with pay rates, and it is obvious that they have their clients’ needs and wants in mind rather than revenue.

Decision 6: To stay or not to stay?

All of me wants to stay in the UK – the lifestyle, the locum wage, the friends, the social scene! I have heard of friends who have been sponsored easily by their private companies. Unfortunately, I have also heard of the difficulties that others have had in being sponsored by the NHS. I guess I’ll just have to get married…!


Gen Howard, Locum Speech Language Pathologist. LinkedIn Profile

Read Gen's next installment : Australia V UK

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