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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 (23)

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

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  • @bemused, just cracked my rib!oouch!

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  • Does anyone else think these figures are totally confused

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • @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.

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  • 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!

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

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  • 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)

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  • 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.


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