Tips to Increase Your Locum Pay in 2023
Locum work is financially lucrative for doctors, whether as a full-time career choice or just a way of topping up your income. But when you're working as a locum doctor, it's crucial to make sure you’re getting paid the best rate possible for your skills. Ask yourself, could you be earning more per hour?
In this article, we'll provide some helpful advice and tips to help you increase your locum pay and maximise your hourly rate.
Researching Locum Rates
Your first step towards increasing your locum pay is to find out what are the typical rates you can expect in your region for the specialties you want to work in. From there, you'll gain an understanding of whether you could find better pay elsewhere, and if that fits with your lifestyle and career goals.
To demonstrate what rates you could be earning as a locum doctor, we’ve created the Locum Doctor Salary Calculator. This breaks down the hourly rates of over 40,000 real locum jobs which have been offered to doctors on Messly since January 2021.
You can use this salary calculator to answer questions like:
👉 How much can I earn per hour based on my grade, specialty, and region?
👉 Can I increase my hourly rate by changing the specialty or region that I locum in?
👉 What will I make each month if I work part-time or full-time?
👉 How would this compare to my training or fellowship salary?
For further insight into this topic, read our related article, Locum Rates: What Can I Expect?
Our Top Tips
1️⃣ - Focus on high-paying shifts, areas, and specialties
The first, and most obvious tip, is to actively seek out work that is known to pay more. This will involve asking yourself important questions, such as:
🚌 How far away from home do you want to work, and how far are you willing to travel for better rates?
Average hourly locum rates vary depending on where you are in the country.
Hospitals in smaller, more remote areas will usually be more under-staffed, so the rates tend to be better. If you’re willing to commute to these Trusts, it can be very lucrative.
This may even increase more if you're willing to go further afield for a fixed period of time. For example, positions in the Channel Islands or Northern Ireland can be paid particularly high rates, and sometimes include hospital accommodation with meals.
Some savvy doctors do a six or eight-week block of full-time locum work in these areas, earning higher rates and making significant savings by having their accommodation and meals taken care of. This is ideal if you can do it alongside a friend as well. If your circumstances allow, this can be a great option.
Locum rates are significantly lower in London than in surrounding areas, due to the Pan London Rate Cap. Our analysis of jobs posted on Messly found the deficit to be 5-8% across all grades. Therefore, if you live in Lonodn and want to boost your rates, commuting to a hospital outside the Cap will really help.
For a full breakdown of how the cap works and where it applies, have a look at our article on locum rates in London here.
🏥 What specialties do you want to work in, and are you willing to change for a better rate?
Locum rates vary between specialties as well. This is affected by pure supply and demand: specialties with greater numbers of vacancies are forced to increase their rates to attract more doctors. And conversely, where there's competition between applicants for locum work, the rates come down.
This varies by region and by Trust, and even from month to month. The best advice is to connect with multiple agencies and keep your ear to the ground so you understand current rates and how these are changing.
For a holistic view, you can check out the the Locum Doctor Salary Calculator or look out for upcoming articles which break this down.
⏰ Are you willing to work nights or weekends?
If you're willing to work anti-social hours like night shifts and weekend, you'll also be able to earn higher rates. Most people prefer to work usual 9am - 5pm locum shifts, so if you’re willing to work outside those hours then you’re also likely to face less competition and earn better money.
💲 How do my rates compare with other locums?
If you can, get in touch with other locum doctors in the area (especially in the specialties you’re looking for) and find out what rates they’ve been getting.
It's valuable for locums to discuss rates with each other, as it helps you all get fair pay for the work they’re doing. There’s nothing worse than finding out another locum is being paid more than you for the same shifts!
Messly's locum service is also a great way to find out the current pay rates for your grade, specialty and region. We’ve chosen just the most reputable locum agencies, who get regular access to the best shifts, and show you their current vacancies through the app.
You see real locum jobs, with hospital details, rates, rotas and travel times from your time - all matched specifically to your wishlist. Since January 2021, over 43,000 individual locum jobs have been offered to doctors on Messly. So we’re bringing almost the entire locum market to you, on your phone, in a way that’s convenient and easy.
2️⃣ - Keep your options open
Once you know exactly what kind of locum roles you’re looking for, you can start comparing your options for work.
The more avenues and approaches you can take to find work, the more likely you are to earn higher rates. Here are some suggestions:
📝 Register with multiple locum agencies
Registering with multiple agencies can be a good way to maximise your hourly rate, as certain agencies will have access to better rates from certain Trusts.
When you’re going through the process of choosing an agency, ask for examples of specific rates they’re currently getting for existing locums in the area you’re looking in.
To learn more about how to choose an agency, have a look at our article, Finding the Right Locum Agencies for You.
And again, Messly can step in to help here. We help you find the agencies best suited to your unique situation and preferences, all before you register with them. You can also see ratings of these locum agencies, written by doctors, so you know you’ll be working with someone you can trust. Discover more about how it works here.
🧐 Compare banks and agencies
Remember, you're able to work through Trust banks or through agencies, and each approach has its own pros and cons.
Be sure to have a look at both the local internal Trust banks and the agencies in your area to compare their rates. Generally locum agency rates are better, but that isn’t always the case.
It's also worth noting that if you register with an internal Trust bank, you can’t also locum through an agency there. That's why it's so important to check the rate is definitely better with the bank before you make that decision.
3️⃣ - Ensure your CV stands out
Another key step towards increasing your locum pay is to make it as clear as possible to your prospective employer that you’re the best person for the job. One easy way to do that is to make sure you have an outstanding CV.
When applying for locum work, it's crucial that you tailor your CV to each role you apply for, including the specialty you’re working in and the relevant experience and skills that make you perfect for that job.
Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
🩺 Make it specific to your specialty
Make sure your CV is specific to the individual specialty you’re applying to working in. Include the experience, in months, that you have working in that speciality at the top in your introduction section.
⏲ Mention any previous locum work you’ve done
It's vital to highlight that you've had previous locum experience. This will signal to the Trust that they won't need to spend time getting you up to speed, making you a more appealing candidate.
💉 List specialty-specific procedures and skills
When talking about your skills, take the opportunity to differentiate your CV from others by including all your skills and procedures you're competent in within your chosen specialty.
4️⃣ - Know your worth, and negotiate!
This is perhaps the most challenging tip to put into practice. To help you gain more confidence in what you're worth, and become more successful when negotiating, we’ve written an article entirely dedicated to this topic.
However, the most important points to note are:
📖 Do your research
As suggested above, if you’re being paid less than the going rate in your hospital it’s a lot easier to negotiate higher pay for yourself. You can also bring this research to your negotiation, giving real evidence of why you should be paid more.
🚶 Don’t be afraid to walk away
If you believe you deserve a better rate, be confident enough to look into different Trusts or banks and you may find they’re willing to pay you more.
🤝 Remember, you can always re-negotiate
Even if a Trust doesn’t initially agree to all your terms, you can revisit the renegotiations at any time.
In summary, our top tips to increase your locum pay are:
✅ Be as flexible as your circumstances allow regarding location, specialties, and anti-social hours
✅ Do your research, keep your options open, and choose the right agencies or banks for you
✅ Make sure you have an outstanding CV, tailored to the roles you're applying for
✅ Know your worth and be confident when negotiating!
If you follow the tips above, you’ll stand the best possible chance of maximising your locum rates and will be able to make the most out of your time spent working as a locum!
Further Reading and Useful Resources
If you’re looking for more information about locuming, you may find the following articles useful:
⭐️ Finding Work as a Locum Doctor: Bank and Agency: A breakdown of how each works, and their pros and cons, covering registration, pay, and access to shifts.
💵 Managing Your Finances as a Locum Doctor: An overview of the key financial issues to consider as a locum, including tax codes, your NHS pension, and getting tax rebates, with specialist advice from our friends at Medics' Money.
👋 Locum Doctor Hub: Our comprehensive resource library features an extensive range of articles and guides, covering everything you need to know about locuming.
🧾 Decoding Your Locum Payslip: Confused about your first payslip as a Locum Doctor? We’ll take you through the basics so that you can understand and identify any issues affecting your pay.
🛠 The Locum Toolkit: This is your free one-stop-shop for all the apps, services and resources to help make your life as a Locum Doctor a lot easier.