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Locum doctor numbers rise 62% in past five years

Locum numbers working in hospitals rise to 16,002 in 2015

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 25 November 2016

Use of locum doctors has risen by 62% in the past five years from 9,878 in 2010 to 16,002 in 2015, according to a new analysis released today by an accountancy firm.

The analysis by Brookson, a provider of accountancy services to locum doctors, claimed that the sharp rise in numbers had happened as hospitals were struggling with staff shortages and doctors appeared to increasingly favour flexible working.

The research also shows that the number of “self-employed” doctors working as GPs has risen 4.7% over the past year from 51,725 to 54,174.

The firm said this rise reversed a long-term decline in the number of doctors working as GPs, which peaked at 60,500 in 2011.

It argued that because the number of GP partners was continuing to fall, the increase in self-employment in GP practices was most likely due to a growing use of locum GPs to fill vacancies.

Brookson said locums were an increasingly valuable resource for the NHS by helping to fill gaps in rotas at short-term notice and providing cover for longer-term absence due to maternity, sickness or study leave.

Doctors were becoming more hesitant about being a partner in practices, so the locum route was becoming more popular.

Martin Hesketh, managing director of Brookson, said: “Doctors increasingly recognise that the financial benefits of working as a locum can outweigh the benefits of being on the payroll. This is particularly true a time when there are unfilled vacancies and the risk of being out of work is low.

“The vast majority of locum doctors, whether in hospitals or GP practices, operate through their own companies. Operating a company is in many respects less hassle than being an employee and having to deal with the added paperwork and workplace politics.

“The growing use of locum doctors has come in for some criticism but there are significant benefits, which are often overlooked. Locums usually spend less time on admin, which means they can spend more time on patient care.”

The analysis also showed that locum doctors were earning on average 44% more than their salaried counterparts.

It analysed pay rates for locums operating throughout the UK and found that average annual pay was £95,040 compared to £65,843 for salaried medical practitioners.

Mr Hesketh said: “The belief that temporary workers desperately want permanent jobs is still quite widespread but usually misplaced. For high earners, such as doctors, operating as a locum is a conscious lifestyle choice, which is growing in popularity.”

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