Indicative £80 per hour GP locum rate is less than most practices pay

An indicative maximum £80-per-hour locum pay rate set by NHS England could force GP practices in many areas to report to officials every time they pay the standard average fee in their area, analysis by GPonline reveals.

Data on rates compiled by GPonline's sister website Medeconomics suggest that in most of England, the £80 rate is below the amount practices currently pay on average and far below the maximum they pay.

In the Midlands and east of England, in London and in the north of England practices pay above the £80 per hour rate on average for locum GPs, and rates range up to £100 to £110 per hour according to data compiled in September and October 2015.

GP leaders have warned that setting the indicative maximum pay rate could 'artificially constrain the locum market' - in effect becoming a minimum locums will accept, and a maximum practices will pay.

GP locum rates

Practices across England will be asked in the coming weeks to submit data on how much they have paid locum GPs for shifts, and will have to report the number of times they have paid over an indicative £80-per-hour rate set by NHS officials.

NHS England used data on standard rates of pay for GP locums to come up with the 'indicative' hourly figure, GPC sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris revealed last week. Although the figure was billed as an 'indicative maximum rate' by NHS England when the 2016/17 GP contract deal was announced, Dr Norris confirmed in a BMA blog: 'This is not a cap. It is a data collection exercise.'

GPonline reported earlier this year that practices could boycott any attempt to cap locum fees, and GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has said practices cannot be told by NHS officials how much to pay.

But National Association of Sessional GPs chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse said: 'The mere mention of a maximum rate could undoubtedly artificially constrain the locum market: some practices may be prompted to use this indicative rate as a ceiling, some locums will significantly increase their rates to match it, and some GPs will stop work altogether and move to a higher-paying profession.

GP workforce

'Either way, there will be no winners, only losers. At the end of the day, this could just make it even harder for struggling and overworked practices to find decent GP cover for their patients.'

Dr Norris wrote in her blog on the BMA website: 'NHS England tell us they will use this data to map out areas where locum demand is particularly high and identify where extra help is needed. It should have no impact on what rate is agreed between locums and practices. This is not a cap. It is a data collection exercise. It's important we are clear about that.

'You'll forgive my cynicism about what happens next, and how this information gives us any more detailed information compared to what we already have. Needless to say, we will be at the table with NHS England looking at these figures and results.

'We will be reminding them what a significant part of the workforce sessional doctors are, and that in the current precarious position of the NHS, they would do well to remember this.'

Photo: iStock

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