Intended for healthcare professionals


Number of locums has doubled since 2009

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 23 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6206
  1. Tom Moberly
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. tmoberly{at}

The number of hospital doctors choosing to work as locums has almost doubled since 2009, National Statistics data show (table 1). Between 2009 and 2015 the number of locum doctors in hospitals rose by 96%, from 8176 in 2009 to 16 002 in 2015. This represents a 12% average annual rise. On average, 1304 more doctors each year are choosing to work as locums.

Brookson, an accountancy firm for contractors, freelancers, and small businesses, commissioned the figures from National Statistics, which used its Labour Force Surveys to collate the figures.

Using data on locums who use its services and National Statistics data on medical practitioners, Brookson calculated that locum doctors are earning 44% more on average than their salaried counterparts.

The company’s analysis of pay rates found that median annual pay is £95 040 for medical locums and £65 843 for salaried medical practitioners. A Brookson spokesman told The BMJ that he believed that medical locums who used Brookson were likely to be fairly typical of those working as locums in hospitals.

In November 2015 a cap was introduced on the hourly rate that NHS trusts could pay locums. NHS Improvement has calculated that, before the cap was introduced, NHS spending on locums was rising by 25% a year. It estimates that since the introduction of the cap 73% of trusts had successfully reduced their spending on agency staff and that trusts had saved £604m.

Kathy Mclean, executive medical director of NHS Improvement, believes that NHS trusts are relying too much on locum doctors and still employing too many locum doctors at rates of pay above the cap introduced in 2015.1

NHS Improvement has calculated that the 2015-16 bill for medical agency staff in the NHS in England was £1.3bn.

Source: National Statistics, data analysis commissioned by Brookson