How Much Does a Locum Doctor Get Paid?
There are many reasons to start a career as a locum doctor. Not only do locum doctors get to have greater flexibility with their shifts (and enjoy a better work-life balance because of it), but they also get the opportunity to gain diverse work experience and enhance their skills.
On top of that, the pay can often be much better than working as a full-time doctor in one care unit. Although pay caps have been introduced by the NHS, locum wages are still very attractive. If you would like to find out more about locum doctor pay, how it is calculated, and what typical annual salaries are, read our guide below.
How is locum doctor pay worked out?
Unlike full-time doctors with a fixed salary, locum doctors are self-employed. This means that like many freelance shift workers, they are paid on an hourly basis.
In the past there were no caps on a locum doctor’s pay, making it one of the most lucrative career paths in the medical field. But in 2015, NHS trusts set caps on the hourly rate for locum doctors to pump more money into patient services and care.
As detailed in The British Medical Association (BMA), the Pan London Bank and Agency Steering Group has set a ceiling of hourly rates for hospitals to follow. These are:
£20 per hour for foundation doctors
£50 - £67 for associate specialists (depending on weekends, holidays and anti-social hours)
Maximum rate of £100 per hour for an emergency medicine consultant working during anti-social hours
While these rates are not standardised across London or the rest of the UK, they are intended to set a guideline. Hourly rates should only be exceeded in special circumstances where patient safety is at risk without immediate care.
How much is a typical locum doctor’s salary?
A typical locum doctor’s salary can be hard to quantify, as freelance doctors work different hours, and are able to choose to work more or less.
As a general guideline, salaried consultants earn a basic of somewhere between £77,913 and £105,042 per year, as of October 2018. For locum consultants, the end-of-year salary can often be much higher, with many contractors earning over £100,000. But this will depend on many different factors, including how many hours you commit to, whether you work weekends and holidays, and whether you’re available for emergencies.
Financial responsibilities of becoming a locum doctor
The high levels of pay and the chance to pick your own working hours may be very attractive to doctors looking to enhance their careers. But working as a self-employed doctor comes with a list of financial responsibilities to bear in mind.
The realities are that high locum pay is counterbalanced with the having to do your own accounts and handle your own tax returns, which can be time-consuming in terms of admin, or an added cost if you hire a medical accountant.
Here are some of the things to bear in mind:
Personal expenses - you will incur expenses such as travel costs, and you will need to establish what is an ‘allowable expense’ in your contract.
Updated tax laws (IR35) - in 2017, the NHS updated its tax terms with agencies and locums, so a locum doctor’s pay is now taxed at source. In some cases, locums have seen their pay reduced by up to 20%. Use an IR35 tax calculator to see whether it is applicable to you.
Payment terms - some payment terms have also changed for locum pay. Some agencies no longer pay Limited Company contractors, choosing to pay them as an umbrella company instead, which may not be as tax-efficient.
How to become a locum doctor
Although there’s a considerable amount of financial responsibility for locums, many workers find that the pros outweigh the cons. Not only is locum doctor pay better than full-time doctor pay in many cases, but being able to gain experience in multiple hospitals or primary care units can be extremely fulfilling.
Having different placements allows doctors to learn about different ways of working, and also get a change of scenery, which can be a good way of dealing with workplace stress.
So how do you become a locum doctor? Anyone with a medical degree and at least one year of experience working in the field can get work with an agency. There are positions in every specialism, from family practice to emergency care.
Search our site to find a locum medical job to suit you. There are many with roles offering excellent rates of locum pay across all areas of the country. If you are willing to travel, you will be able to experience new places, meet new people, and enhance your career.