SHO Locum Rates: Which Specialties Pay Best in 2023?
If you're a Senior House Officer (SHO) looking for locum work, you'll want to know which specialties tend to have the best pay rates so you can explore your options and potentially increase your earnings.
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, 23,000 of which were for SHOs.
To help you understand what hourly rates you can expect as a locum SHO, and which specialties pay the most, we’ve done a deep dive into these stats and crunched the numbers for you here.
🧮 The Crunch
The graph below breaks down the hourly pay range for SHOs by specialty. Please be aware that these values are based on an average across all NHS hospitals in all UK regions, and include both core and anti-social hours.
If you decide to work non-core hours, and are based outside of 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 SHOs, the average hourly rate across all specialties is between £41.51 and £47.32, with a mid-point of £44.41.
We’ve also marked certain specialties with an asterisk. These are the 3 most popular specialties for locum work as an SHO - these specialties alone account for 54% of all SHO jobs on Messly.
Please note the above values are averages. Rates for may vary for a number of reasons, such as hospital demand, and the variation between works managed by staff banks and agencies. It’s always best to look around to see what you can get.
Below you'll find an interactive table detailing the average pay of each specialty.
👍 The highest paying specialties on averageThe best-paid specialty for SHOs is A&E, where the average rate is £45.61, over £1.50 per hour more than the average.
There's also a lot of work available in A&E, with over 3,800 SHO A&E locums posted on Messly in 2021, which is equivalent to around one in six of all available locum roles. This makes it much easier to find regular locum work without having to move around between hospitals too much.
Other popular specialties that pay well include Endocrinology (£45.28), T&O (£44.86) and General Psychiatry (£44.59).
👎 The lowest paying specialties on average
At the other end of the spectrum, Haematology (£42.62), Paediatrics (£43.41), and Anaesthetics (£43.61), are some of the lowest paying specialties.
💰 Tips for Boosting Your Rates
If you're working in a specialty that isn't at the top end of hourly rates, there are still some things you can do to try to increase your earnings.
Be as flexible as possible
When it comes to locuming, the more flexible you can be the better. If you’re willing to work anti-social hours, such as weekends, night shifts, and on-call shifts, you’ll be able to find higher rates. You’ll also be in higher demand as a locum, which will give you the opportunity to command higher rates.
Being flexible with the locations you work in will also impact your rates, as you'll be able to earn more working in areas that have less doctors available.
Make sure your CV stands out
If you want to succeed as a locum, one of the most important things to have is a strong CV that helps you stand out from the competition. Make sure your CV is fully up-to-date, and always tailor it to be specific to each role and specialty you're applying for at the time.
As doctors, most of us tend to be quite poor at writing CVs. To help you get this right, we've produced a detailed guide to writing an outstanding CV for locum doctors, this includes an example template to help you organise and plan your own.
Be confident in negotiating
If you think you’re being under-paid, talk to your colleagues to find out the local going-rate for your specialty and grade. If you’re not getting this, talk to your agency and ask them to negotiate on your behalf.
If you think you deserve more than the average, don't be afraid to try and negotiate. If you have substantive experience in a specialty, experience in performing the relevant specialty-specific procedures, have completed any Royal College exams, or have experience stepping up at higher levels, you'll be well placed to succeed here.
If you have any of these, make sure they're on your CV, and be prepared to back them up with references and professional certificates.
We've provided detailed guidance on negotiating rates for locums in this article linked here.
Shop around if you can
An easy way to get access to a wider range of shifts, and therefore higher rates, is to work with a number of different locum recruitment agencies and staff banks.
Each agency will have slightly different access to shifts and hospitals, so we’d recommend signing up to at least two or three. This will give you a good range of choice, but not so much that you become inundated with constant calls and messages.
It’s also a good idea to join one or two hospital staff banks local to you. Locum shifts with staff banks tend to be more ad-hoc, but they give you the option of picking up local shifts every now and then. This will be helpful if the number of locum shifts you’re receiving temporarily falls.
For a full deep dive into how to maximise your locum rates, read our related article here.
Working in a new specialty?
If you're considering locuming in a new specialty to be able to earn more money, we’ve written helpful guides to help doctors prepare for their first shifts in each one.
📈 Locum Doctor Salary Calculator
Our LDSC lets you calculate how much you could earn as a Locum Doctor depending on your grade, region and specialty. You can also use it to work out answers to questions such as 'Can I earn more than my Consultant as a Locum?', or 'How many days a week will I need to work to match my F2 Salary?'.
🎯 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. Covering areas such as getting started as a locum, finances, understanding your rights, and many 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.