GP locum rates continue to rise in most parts of the UK, poll reveals

Average hourly rates received by locums have risen across England over the past 12 months, although they have fallen in Wales, according to analysis by GPonline's sister site Medeconomics.

(Photo: Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images)
(Photo: Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images)

Each year Medeconomics assesses the rates locums are paid when booking work directly with practices and through locum agencies.

Despite a rise in hourly rates charged by locums booking direct with practices, the figures show that average day rates have fallen in some parts of England.

According to this year’s poll of 435 GPs who undertake locum work, the Midlands and East of England saw the highest increase in rates locums earned from practices, with a 4.8% rise in the average hourly rates charged and a 7.8% rise in daily rates.

Locum rates

However, average hourly rates fell by 2.4% in Wales and daily rates were down 3.4%. Last year Wales saw the biggest rise in daily rates with a 10.3% increase in the 12 months to July 2018.

In Scotland, average daily rates remained steady with a 0.7% increase compared with last year – most locums in Scotland responded with daily rate figures as opposed to hourly rates.

Hourly rates charged by locums in 2019 increased by 1.2% in the south of England, 2.25% in the north of England and 3.6% in London. However, the daily rates fell by 1.5% in the south of England and by 4.2% in London. Daily rates increased by 5.8% in the north of England.

Due to a low response rate in Northern Ireland last year it was not possible to compare the annual rise. However the average daily rate charged by locums in the country has risen by 8.2% compared with 2017, when figures were last available.

Fees increased

Despite the rise in average hourly rates this year, only 22% of the locums responding to the survey said that they had increased their fees in the past 12 months. Some 73% said their rates had remained the same, while 5% said they had decreased.

Only 5% of locums in England and Wales said they had put down their rates as a result of the introduction of state-backed indemnity. The five-year GP contract agreement published by the BMA and NHS England earlier this year had suggested that reduced costs for locums because of the new indemnity arrangements would lead to locums dropping their fees.

However, one GP locum responding to the poll said: 'The rates I charge are reasonable. I believe I should be paid fairly and in line with my skill and expertise and the degree of risk I am taking on, not to cover my indemnity.'

Another added: 'I had absorbed the rising costs over the years and hadn't had any pay rise.'

Others pointed to changes in pension annualisation rules, which means some locums will have to pay increased pension contributions this year, effectively wiping out any savings they may have made as a result of state-backed indemnity.

A separate survey by GPonline earlier this year found that two-thirds of GP partners believed that locums should cut their rates following the introduction of state-backed indemnity. However, only 2% of locums responding to that poll said they had done so.

This latest survey also found that demand for locum cover remains high. Of those respondents who were doing locum work 12 months ago, 42% said demand for their services was higher compared with a year ago, 52% said demand was about the same and only 6% said demand was lower.

The full locum rates information is available to subscribers of Medeconomics. Click here for more details.

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