Consultant Locum Rates: Which Specialties Pay the Best in 2023?
If you're a consultant looking for locum work, you may be interested in knowing which specialties tend to pay the best rates. Here at Messly, we help doctors find locum work from the very best locum agencies. In 2021, we saw over 40,000 individual locum jobs offered on our platform, 6,600 of which were offered to consultants.
To help you understand what hourly rates you can expect to earn as a locum consultant in your specialty, we’ve done a deep dive into these stats and crunched the numbers for you here.
📊 The Data
The graph below shows the hourly pay range for consultants by specialty. It's important to note these values are based on an average across all NHS hospitals across all UK regions, with both core and anti-social hours featured.
So, if you decide to work non-core hours, and are based outside a lower-paid region, such as London, you can expect to earn a higher rate.
For a breakdown by region, including an analysis of the impact of the pan-London rate caps around London, have a look at our related article on that here.
🇬🇧 National average rates
For consultants doing locum work, the average UK hourly rate across all specialties is between £92.78 and £103.60, with a mid-point of £98.18.
Please note the above values are averages. Therefore, rates can vary widely for a number of reasons, such as hospital demand and the variation between banks and agencies. With that in mind, it’s best to look around as much as possible to try and find the best opportunities.
👍 The highest paying specialties on average
The best-paid specialty is Respiratory Medicine, where the average rate is £106.74. Some other specialties with strong rates include Dermatology (£103.65) and Gastroenterology (£101.67).
While doctors working in these specialties tend to earn the highest rates, they're not the most common specialties. On aggregate, these three account for just 11% of all consultant locum jobs posted on Messly. The most popular specialities are General Medicine, General Psychiatry, and Anaesthetics.
These accounted for 23% of all jobs on Messly in 2021. You can see a full breakdown of where you’re most likely to find locum work as a consultant in our related article here.
👎 The lowest paying specialties on average
At the other end of the spectrum, General Surgery (£89.87), O&G (£91.39), and Paediatrics (£91.92) are the specialties which pay the lowest on average.
💰 Tips for Boosting Your Rates
There are some tactics you can use to increase the amount you earn as a locum, across all specialties. Here are a few tips to help you find the best rate possible:
Spend time perfecting your CV
You should be aiming to get yourself into a position where you're in high demand as a locum, and can therefore have your pick of the highest paying shifts. The first step towards achieving this is by ensuring your CV is up-to-date and stands out from the crowd.
As a locum, your CV should always be tailored to each specific role you're applying for, and should demonstrate your relevant skills and experience in that specialty.
For detailed guidance with getting this right, check out our guide to writing the perfect CV for locums here.
Be flexible with your time
If you’re willing to be flexible with your time and work anti-social hours, such as weekends and nights, you’ll be able to earn better rates for these shifts. You’ll soon be in more demand by Trusts, which will also give you leverage to negotiate.
Shop around if you can
Looking around to find as many options as possible will mean you can pick shifts with higher rates. An easy way to get access to a wider range of shifts is to register with multiple recruitment agencies and banks.
Each agency will have slightly different access to shifts and hospitals, so we’d recommend two or three as a good number to have. This will give you a good range of choices, but not so many that you become inundated with calls and emails.
It’s also helpful to sign up with one or two hospital staff banks in your local area. Shifts with banks tend to be more ad-hoc, but it gives you the option of picking up shifts close to home every now and then, which can be a nice safety net to fall back on if your locum work starts to dry up unexpectedly.
Consider travelling further
If you live in Greater London or other big cities, the easiest way to increase your rate is to travel further to work in a hospital located outside the area. Hospitals in more remote regions will pay higher rates, as demonstrated in this relate article here.
Don't be afraid to negotiate
If you think you’re being under-paid, talk to other locums to find out the going rate for your specialty and grade. If you're registered with a locum agency, you can ask them to negotiate on your behalf.
If you have good experience in a certain speciality, or are particularly proficient at performing relevant specialty-specific services, you may be able to negotiate higher than the average rate. Read our related article here for tips on negotiating your rates as a locum.
For a full deep dive into how to maximise your locum rates, read our related article here.
🎯 How Messly Can Help
Messly is a faster, simpler, and more transparent way to find locum work. We make the very best locum agencies compete to find you the work you want.
How does it work? Firstly, you create your profile in the app, and specify exactly what kind of locum work you want, what rates you expect, how far you’ll travel, whether you’ll work anti-social hours, and more. It works for doctors of all grades, across the whole of the UK, for work in the NHS and private sectors.
You’ll then receive offers of locum work from locum agencies. You see real shifts with hospital details, rates, and rotas, all matched specifically to your preferences, plus ratings of those agencies from other doctors.
You can then choose which shifts you want to accept, using the app to compare rates and travel distances, and reading the recruiters’ pitches to you.
When you see an opportunity you like, you can then schedule a convenient time to speak to the agency. Only then do you share your contact information, and only ever with the agencies you’ve selected, so you won’t get any unwanted emails or phone calls.
We’ll then help you through the registration process, so you can start working quickly and without any hassle.
By giving you access to locum work from all the best agencies, you stand a much better chance of earning the highest rates, with less travel, and your pick of departments.
🔎 Notes on Methodology
The data above is based on an analysis of locum jobs added to Messly since January 2021. Jobs are only added by pre-vetted locum agencies who have been approved to join Messly. Each job is added with a lower rate and upper rate to show the range within which the job pays.
Before jobs are added to Messly, they're checked by our team, and erroneous rates are investigated so jobs can be removed if their rates can't be verified.
The data in this chart shows the average of the lower and upper rates, to give the most common pay range available for each specialty.
Only specialties with more than 100 shifts have been added to the chart. GP data is not included due to our low sample size.
This article is part of our Locum Data Hub, a collection of data-driven guides and resources that explore the numbers behind locuming, helping you solve challenges with things such as pay, budgeting, job searches, and much more.
For a comprehensive list of articles designed to support you as a locum doctor, visit our Locum Doctor Hub for everything you need to know about locuming today. This covers areas like getting started as a locum, finances, understanding your rights, and more.
Additionally, if you're considering an F3 year, you might also find it useful to look through the selection of resources we've put together in our F3 Resource Hub.
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