How many references do I need?
Most locum agencies will ask for:
- at least two references from previous Consultants you've worked with...
- ...which cover the last three years of employment (or two years if you're an F2)...
- ...and should ideally cover the specialty you want to locum in
In practice, you need to provide enough references to cover all of the experience (this includes shadowing work) listed on your CV that you want to have counted by the locum agency, which can end up being many more than two.
If possible, try and minimise the number of references you need to provide by choosing referees who can deliver the highest possible value with a single reference.
Which Consultants do I pick from my Foundation Training?
Educational Supervisors and Foundation Programme Directors (if you have a good relationship with them) are usually good choices as they can often vouch for the work you have done over a long period of time.
Consultants from the specialties you want to locum in are also good choices, as they will be helpful in making your application stand out. You may also be asked for a reference from your most recent rotation.
You can choose any Consultant you have worked with. It does not necessarily need to be the head of a department, the most senior consultant, your clinical supervisor, or the consultant you worked with the most. Though you might want to tactically choose someone who is better at managing their admin and responding to emails, or someone who doesn’t get asked for references by everyone else.
Can I use the same referee twice if I have worked with them in two different capacities i.e. clinical supervisor and educational supervisor?
No. If you have been asked to provide two references, then it needs to be from two different referees. If you have worked with one doctor in multiple capacities then their single reference may cover more areas of your CV, but it still only counts as one reference.
I have done some locum work recently, do I need a reference to cover this?
If you have done regular locum work outside of your main Trust, you may need a reference to cover this period. This will depend on how much work you've done there and how regularly. The locum agency will exercise their judgment as to whether this is necessary or not.
If it is in a specialty in which you have lots of experience already, and you have another reference to cover your skills in that specialty then you may not need to provide a new reference. However, if the work was in a new specialty then you may need to collect a reference for this work.
How do I ‘collect’ a reference?
Messly use OneRef for medical references.
It works like this:
👉 You ask a consultant if they’re happy to provide you with a reference. 👉 If they agree, you upload their contact details to OneRef through your Messly account. 👉 They get sent a reference form to complete. 👉 This form can be shared with multiple locum agencies without the need for it to be re-completed each time. 👉 You can view a copy of your reference and add it to your medical portfolio (unless the signing consultant has specifically denied you access to view the reference).
You can read more about OneRef here.
👉 Find any previous references
If you already have references on file from previous locum or bank work, and these are in an official format, the locum agency may be able to use these. They can contact the relevant referee to confirm it is authentic.
👉 Determine where the reference gaps in your CV are
OneRef has a reference timeline that shows unreferenced gaps in your CV. If you need to provide a reference for these gaps, think about which consultants you may be able to contact for a reference to cover these periods.
👉 Contact referees to give them a heads-up
Send your referees a message explaining that you are gathering references and enquiring as to whether they would be happy to complete one for you. To help you with this, we have created a template message that you can send to potential referees that will increase the odds of them saying yes. You can find the template in this article; ‘How to ask for a medical reference.’
👉 Upload referee details to OneRef
If the Consultant agrees to complete the reference, upload their preferred contact details to OneRef and they will be sent a reference to complete.
👉 Chase up if you don't hear back
Waiting for a response from referees is the most common reason that doctors get delayed in starting work. You should feel empowered to politely chase them up for a response if you haven't heard back within a week or two. Having already asked their permission makes this much easier.
👉 View and share your reference
Unlike the traditional system of reference collecting, OneRef allows doctors to view their completed references. This means you can download them, save them to your portfolio, use them in your appraisal, and choose who to share them with in the future.
Concerns and Challenges
If I’m registering with multiple locum agencies, will each one contact my referees separately?
OneRef allows you to collect your references directly through Messly without the need to share the details of your referees with any agencies. OneRef collects one single reference per referee, and then that reference can be shared with all agencies on Messly.
OneRef is only available for agencies on Messly. Outside of Messly, references can’t be reused as NHS rules state that each locum agency needs to individually receive references directly from the Consultant. This means that if you are registering with agencies externally to Messly you will need to collect multiple references from the same referee (one reference per agency).
Will my consultants be annoyed if I ask them for a reference?
It’s easy to feel like you are bugging them, especially if you are using your referees for locum work and for training applications, but consultants generally understand that it's a necessary part of you getting work and will do what they need to do to help.
Things you can do to make it easier for them to provide your reference are:
✅ Choosing someone you already have a bit of a relationship with.
✅ Being polite, gracious, and grateful for their support in your emails to them.
✅ Providing as much information as you can to help them complete the reference (more on this below).
✅ Using OneRef, which reduces the amount of admin they need to do on your behalf.