Locum pay bill has fallen 20% from last year

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  13 Jul 2017

The amount paid by NHS trusts in England for locum staff fell by 20% between 2015 and 16 and 2016-17, data have shown.

Liaison, a company that manages staff payment systems, gathered data on locums’ pay and agency commission rates paid by 61 NHS trusts between April 2016 and April 2017.[1] It found that the total bill for agency staff in NHS trusts in England decreased by £700m, from £3.64bn in 2015-16 to £2.94bn in 2016-17. Liaison estimated that spending on medical locums accounted for £942m (32%) of all NHS spending on agency staff in England in 2016-17, little changed from the 33% of agency spending in 2015-16.

Locum consultants accounted for 40% of all medical locum spending and saw the biggest cut to their pay, which fell by 2.3% from an average of £94.08 an hour in 2015-16 to £91.89 an hour in 2016-17. Hourly pay for year 2 foundation doctors (F2s) fell by 2%, from £45.59 to £44.67 in the same period, as did hourly pay for staff grade doctors, from £60.83 to £59.54.

Since 2015-16 the number of hours worked by consultants and staff grade locums rose by 21% and 37% respectively, the data showed. Conversely, the number of hours worked by F2s and year 3 specialty trainees (ST3s) fell by 46% and 15%.

In November 2015 the government introduced a cap on the hourly rate that NHS trusts could pay locums, which varied according to grade and type of shift. Liaison found that trusts still paid more than the cap for locum consultants and ST3s during core hours.

Consultant radiologists received the highest average hourly rate of pay, at £104.52 an hour. However, the highest single hourly rate, at £187.50, was paid to consultants working in general medicine.

When asked why they had employed a locum, 85.8% of trusts said that the reason was a substantive vacancy, while 3.9% said that it was because of service pressures. Asked why they had agreed to pay above the pay cap, 51.4% of trusts said that they did so to employ someone with specialist skills.


  1. Liaison. Taking the temperature: a review of NHS agency staff spending in 2016-17. Jul 2017. [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers


Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: