Figures have shown since 2009, the number of hospital doctors choosing to work as locums has almost doubled. On average, 1,304 more doctors each year are choosing locum work.

The figures from National Statistics, were commissioned by Brookson, a provider of accountancy services to locum doctors. The data was gathered from locums who use its services and National Statistics on medical practitioners.

Martin Hesketh, Managing Director of Brookson, said: “Doctors increasingly recognise that the financial benefits of working as a locum can outweigh the benefits of being on the payroll. This is particularly true a time when there are unfilled vacancies and the risk of being out of work is low. When you factor in the greater flexibility of deciding when and where to work, the appeal to many medics is clear.

“The vast majority of locum doctors, whether in hospitals or GP practices, operate through their own companies. Operating a company is in many respects less hassle than being an employee and having to deal with the added paperwork and workplace politics.

“The growing use of locum doctors has come in for some criticism but there are significant benefits, which are often overlooked. Locums usually spend less time on admin, which means they can spend more time on patient care. The varied nature of the role can also mean that they acquire a more diverse range of experience and offer a fresh perspective.

“The belief that temporary workers desperately want permanent jobs is still quite widespread but usually misplaced. For high earners, such as doctors, operating as a locum is a conscious lifestyle choice which is growing in popularity. Only a small minority of locums miss the benefits of being permanent employees. Employee benefits have been eroded over the years, and many locums regard higher pay and better work-life balance as more than compensating.”

Price caps were introduced in November 2015 to limit the hourly rate that NHS Trusts could pay locums. Before the cap was introduced, NHS spend on locums was rising by 25% each year. Since the introduction of the cap, it’s estimated that 73% of Trusts have successfully reduced their spending on agency staff.

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