This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

GP recruitment issues push locum rates to £1.4k a day in one area

Locum GPs in Scotland were paid up to £1,400 a day in rural isles last year, an investigation from Scottish Labour has revealed.

The data, obtained via freedom of information request responses from NHS Scottish Health Boards, exposed a large variance in GP locum compensation based on location.

The BMA said the severe shortage of doctors had had an impact on the rates that health boards and practices were having to pay to secure cover.

The latest figures mirror a report from Audit Scotland in October which that health boards spent £109 million on agency medical locums in 2016/17, an increase of 6% in real terms from the previous year.

Locum GPs in isolated northern isles in NHS Orkney were paid up to £1,400 for a day’s work, with an average daily rate of £700. This compared to lows of an average rate of £90 a day in NHS Dumfries and Galloway, the southernmost region of the country. Here the highest daily rate recorded was £140.

High daily rates were not confined to rural spots. Average charges peaked in NHS Lanarkshire, at of £852, with the highest daily rate at £1,133.

Dr Karyn Devlin, a GP partner in Lanarkshire, told Pulse her practice pays a minimum of £250 a day for locum cover for a maximum of 15 patients seen and no additional work, which ‘adds significant pressure on colleagues’.

Dr Devlin said the situation her region is ‘pretty poor’, despite the lower rates indicated in the Scottish Labour investigation. She added: ‘It’s made worse as we have some of the highest patients per GP numbers already. A number of practices are going under.

‘Locums are the way you often are best able to recruit long term to a practice. So it is diminishing our ability to plan for the future as well.’

Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chair of BMA Scotland's GP Committee said: ‘GP practices across Scotland have faced severe difficulties in recent years in filling vacant GP posts and that shortage of GPs means there are also not enough locums to go around.

‘That has an impact on what practices and health boards are having to pay to secure locum cover.’

He added the only long-term solution to recruitment problems was to make GP an attractive career choice for young doctors

‘The new GP contract implemented in recent months sets us in the right direction to achieve this, but it will take time for its effects to be fully felt.’

Labour shadow cabinet secretary for health Anas Sarwar said: ‘It is utterly shocking that the SNP GP crisis has created a situation where locum costs are over a thousand pounds a day.

‘The reality is the SNP has underfunded primary care for over a decade and as a result family doctors are left over-stretched, overworked and under too much pressure.’

In response to the figures, a spokesperson for newly appointed Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said they aimed to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over the next ten years to meet demand and that the new GP contract would help to take pressure of GP workload.

‘We are continuing to drive down the use of agencies and have been clear with Boards that they should only use agency as a last resort when temporary staff are required.’

Readers' comments (23)

  • You have got to question these figures Pulse. There is no way I believe that these highest/average and lowest daily rates!
    The Borders and Dumfries and Galloway in particular.
    Where’s Glasgow’s figures btw?!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with Fedup - something dodgy.

    I cannot believe a GP in Dumfries would do a locum fo £90/ day - or even £80/day.

    I suspect they represent a locum hour (i.e. staying on an hour longer than planned), being reported as a day.

    Similarly - might NHS Orkney, being so rural represent a 24 hour shift?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There's some poor doctor in the Borders getting paid £60/day. Even before taking indemnity etc into account. This is below the minimum wage.

    Modern slavery!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How much do oil workers off the coast of Scotland get per day? Is this any different from extreme rural locuns?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    How much do London lawyers charge per hour? The conveyancer involved in selling my house charges £190/hour and she isn’t even a lawyer. Why the outrage headlines on GP locum rates? Highly trained people can’t earn good money genuinely helping people in the U.K. only parasites and pen pushers get to be rich, that’s how we like it in this weird confused upside down mess of a country.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • BECAUSE LOCUMS ARE "SCREWING" THE PRACTICES THAT ARE VULNERABLE AND IN TROUBLE.

    INSTEAD, THEY SHOULD BE "DISCPLINED" FOR OVER-CHARGING.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Last. Man Standing should stand down. Or go work in Orkney for £80 per day!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Last Man Standing... what? It's a market, when there are more unfilled sessions and fewer locums the rate goes up. It would be illegal to discipline them as this would indicate price fixing.

    Secondly as a locum GP in Scotland these figures are completely wrong. Nobody is being paid any less than £400 a day anywhere. Dumfries has a shortage of GPs so the number is more likely an hourly rate.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This government loves the power of the free market, and so here we now are.
    If one wants a quality GP service then PAY FOR IT.
    There is no queue in the supermarket or tab to click online marked "If you're a GP - 50 % off the sticker price"
    We have bills to pay and responsibilities to meet, so go on - cough up.
    Not our fault there's not enough of us. Let's stop being martyrs to this profession. Martyrdom is a form of perverse ostentatiousness.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Last man standing has lost the plot. It’s partners that massively undercharge rather than Locums being vultures. Many health professionals have been brainwashed with BS about vocation and privilege bla bla bla to create a cheap service for the government. Wake up!

    Mate, if it makes you ill either get out or drown your sorrows in alcohol. Just saying.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It was £1400 for 24 hours at £65 an hour approx

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @bemused, just cracked my rib!oouch!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Does anyone else think these figures are totally confused

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The figures are wrong. Current locum rates are at least £85/h. Lawyer fees are £250/h if you just graduated. An experienced lawyer charges £300-£350/h. The medics are selling themselves short and the government knows this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    I’m with Last man standing on this one. I don’t think locums should get paid at all. They should all be forced to sign up as partners and work for way less than their salaried employees. Shame they won’t be able to recruit anybody. MAYBE SHOUTING AT THEM WILL BRING THEM ROUND AND GET THE BA#£&@DS TO WORK FOR FREE.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @truth finder - you are (I think) quoting retail lawyer prices, rather than what individual lawyers earn.

    From that figure, most will have write downs (where the bill is reduced to match the quote) and admin time/ educational time/ business time etc (which is not billed directly to a client).

    For comparison you would need to see what your practice charges for a private 10 minute appointmnet (say for a medical) and multiply that by 6. Ours charges £45 for a 10 minute private appointment - so £270/ hour - which is not dissimilar to a lawyer.

    There are some who clearly earn more (Slaughter and May partners earn something like 2M/ year) but most lawyers outside london will have a retail price not dissimilar to a GP surgery.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dear Emmas Wilkinson and Rosser, are you guys seriously claiming that locums get paid £60 per day?? Don't misrepresent figures to create headlines. This is Pulse, not the Daily Mail.
    If a locum works an extra hour and charges £60 and then goes home - that does not mean he is paid £60 per day!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hang on ! Why would anybody work for £ 60, when s/he can earn £ 1400 ? These figures cannot be right.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • An average of 700 quid a day, thats $1240 Australian. I'd class that a bad earnings day at 15 minutes an appointment, minimal paperwork, no visits etc. Not gloating, it simply shows how underappreciated and under paid UK skilled GPs are. (Daily Mail go to hell)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    I recently had a haircut - it took about 10 mins and the charge was £14.

    Out of interest, I calculated my income per patient and it works out to... £15.60 per patient.

    forget day rate, hourly rate and look at it from a per client basis - we are currently valued as no different to cheap hairdressers.

    I'm in favor of an exit from the NHS with the market dictating our rate and it will be a lot more than £1400 a day. I'm thinking the rate will be £500 per hour.

    I'm not anti-NHS - I like the idea BUT the public as a whole don't value us and I'd like them to see what the true costs to them would be if we left - only then will they start valuing us again.

    And no technology will only do so much as we are effectively taking on the risk - Babylon doesn't - it passes that risk on to its clinicians. As good as AI might be - it will never take on the costs of risk.


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • These figures are a mish mash of what the Health Board paid to the agency ,who then took off their cut of 30-50%. They are also quoting HOURLY RATES as Day rate.Also the highest paid locums are for 24 hour cover for which you have to have Pre hospital emergency qualifications and experience.
    The whole point of the article is to distract the public away from overall reduced poor funding of Primary Care and encourage them to simply blame the Greedy Locums. Can't wait to read the Daily wail version. As a Locum myself who has just finished 12 consecutive days of 24 hr cover in Shetland I now know that I will be asking for a higher rate next time.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The contract in 2004 resulted in a divide between Partners and Salaried doctors. For years the Partners enjoyed high earniongs with Salaried doctors working hard for much less. There were full time locums, but not many.

    2018 we are now seeing Partners frazzled and unable to cope. Salaried roles are really tough to fill. Locums are enjoying a golden time; they can pick and choose the work and the pay.

    The future. Partnerships will fold and merge. Paramedical staff will be recruited. Locum pay will dip as the market becomes saturated. One or two Partners (or private providers) will run surgeries of 60-100 thousand patients.

    Act now--cash in on the locum frenzy and then retire.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is a very poor bit of completely inaccurate reporting. Why is it even on your web page. The figures are clearly entirely incorrect. And as the article is entirely about those totally fictional figures, it should be removed.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say