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Locum rates up by 20%

By Rob Finch

Sessional GPs' pay rates have risen by more than 20 per cent in the past year, a survey reveals.

Nottinghamshire LMC's survey found average rates in the region in 2005 were £76 an hour ­ up more than £13 an hour on 2004.

It also showed a huge disparity in rates being offered by practices, with some paying locums only £37.50 an hour while others offered £125 an hour.

The findings provoked stark differences of opinion between GP prinicipals and sessional GPs. Principals accused some sessional GPs of charging 'extortionate' rates, whereas locums said many practices were exploiting them.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said locums on lower rates were not charging enough: 'There has always been a disparity which comes down to isolation, exploitation and negotiation.

'We're really good at being caring and empathetic but not good at negotiation, which is the complete antithesis,' he said.

Dr Robbie Coull, an itinerant GP locum and author of The Locum Survival Guide, said market conditions largely dictated rates but exploitation was a long-standing problem.

He said: 'Practices are sometimes desperate to get bums on seats, so there is definitely a market, but some locums may not have the muscle to work that market.

'Exploitation has been a fact for a long time, particularly among female locums who tend to have family commitments.'

Chris Locke, chief executive of Nottinghamshire LMC, disputed that practices were exploiting locums.

'When you talk about exploitation it's a two-sided coin,' he said. 'At the lower end of the scale its very often people who have retired who locum in their old practice and don't want to screw them. That balances out extortionate rates some freelance GPs charge.'

Steve Mercer, chief executive of Avon LMC, said the locum market was volatile.

He said: 'There is an argument that the rise in locum costs shouldn't reflect the overall rise in GP principal incomes. Locums could price themselves out of the market and they should remember that.'

Survey findings

· Average hourly rate 2005: £76.12 per hour, up from £63 in 2004

· 300% difference in rates for two-hour session [£75-£250 per session]

· On-call costs varied from £20 to £50 an hour

· Average mileage up from 60p maximum to 65p

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