Becoming a GP locum: Setting your rates

In an extract from MPS and the National Association for Sessional GPs (NASGP)’s ‘Becoming a GP locum’ NASGP chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse explains how to set rates, negotiate, and offer services outside your terms.

Male GP using a computer
(Photo: Getty Images)

The most important thing to know about setting rates for sessions is that GP locums are not allowed to set rates with other locums. Like all freelancers in the UK, GP locums are ruled by competition law.

Freelancers, including GP locums, must avoid creating ‘cartels’. Although they sound lawless, a ‘cartel’ in this sense means a party of two or more freelancers where members have agreed not to compete (sometimes also known as ‘price-fixing’).

The NASGP never advises GP locums on rates and endeavours to ensure every GP is aware of their legal obligation not to fix rates with colleagues.

For this reason, we have built a rate calculator on our website that helps GP locums set their own rates independently, without the need to confer with colleagues.

The calculator helps GP locums look at the costs of practising as a GP locum, including:

  • Professional expenses, including indemnity, training and membership/subscriptions
  • IT costs, including phone bills
  • Office costs
  • Mileage and car maintenance.

We help GP locums calculate a sessional (or hourly) rate from the amount of sessions they plan to work, their estimated annual income, or both. It also includes a tab for developing competitive rates for practices you prefer to work at (or adjusting rates to compensate for a lack of support at work).

Sharing rates

A GP locum can set different terms at different practices – including different rates. For example, a session from 9am to 12 noon, during which the GP sees three patients an hour and then has an hour for paperwork, may not demand the same fee as a session of back-to-back ten-minute face-to-face consultations that starts at 7am.

As discussed, we encourage GP locums to adjust rates that support practices where they can learn and grow, and our rate calculator helps GPs estimate what those fees might be.

Negotiating rates

It can feel quite nerve-wracking the first time you share your rate with a practice manager. This might explain why GP locums appreciate booking systems like LocumDeck, which help them set rates and avoid the need to negotiate fees directly.

However, if you are keen to work with a particular local practice, after sharing your availability with a practice it may help to send a follow-up email to let them know you are keen to work with them and happy to negotiate a more competitive rate.

Charging for ‘extras’

As discussed, we recommend that before every new job, GP locums are as clear as possible about ‘extra’ work. Where work falls outside the session defined in their terms, we recommend GPs list it in their terms as a billable extra. For example if you set a rate for an unscheduled home visit of about 30 minutes after the end of the session, it makes it easy for you to say ‘yes’ if a practice manager asks you to step in at short notice.

This article first appeared as a chapter in MPS and NASGP’s ‘Becoming a GP locum’ by Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of NASGP.

Medical Protection is a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited. MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. NASGP is the independent membership body for general practice locums in the UK, founded by locums for locums.

You can read and download ‘Becoming a GP locum’ in its entirety at nasgp.org.uk/resource/becoming-a-gp-locum-free-pdf-download

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