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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 (22)

  • 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?!!!

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  • 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?

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  • 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!

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

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  • 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.

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

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

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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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