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How much can a locum doctor earn?

Becoming a locum doctor can seem like an attractive option.

You’re in control of when you work, where you work and what you’re paid. You could even get paid more for working freelance, although the 2015 spending cap on agency staff has limited this figure. 

What is a locum doctor?

First things first, a locum doctor is a self-employed doctor. 

As a locum, you will often find work through agencies, although you can also be hired directly, depending on your contacts. You’re not restricted to a specific department when you work as a locum, so you could also gain professional experience in a wider range of medical fields. This is, of course, dependent on your training!

How is pay different?

Unlike permanent medical staff, locums are paid an hourly rate. After the spending caps were introduced on 2015, this is the approximate maximum you can be paid as a locum:

ServiceHourly rate
Foundation doctor£20
Associate specialist£50-£67 (dependent on anti-social, weekend and holiday hours)
Emergency medical consultant£100 (if anti-social hours)

We say approximate maximum because these rates aren’t concrete across the UK. They are guidelines as opposed to rigidly thresholds enforced nationwide. 

A salaried consultant might earn between £75,000 and £105,000, but many locum doctors earn more than £100,000. But be aware that this is affected by the volume of anti-social, weekend or holiday hours that you can work, where the rates are often at their highest.

How does tax work for locums?

Like any self-employed worker, you’ll have to pay your taxes yourself. And organisation is key. We’d recommend that you record all of your income and expenses in a spreadsheet from month to month of each tax year.

Here are some important dates to be aware of:

  • 6th April – 5th April – the tax year to calculate your income
  • 5th October – deadline to register for Self Assessment
  • 31st January – deadline to pay your tax return

To pay your tax return, you’ll need to pay two types of tax:

  • Income Tax – this is dependent on what you earn
  • National Insurance – this gives you access to state-provided benefits

You should also make sure that you keep track of your business expenses which you can deduct at the end of the tax year.

Read more about how expenses work here.

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