The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Comparing Nursing Agency Pay Rates 

Working with a nursing agency as a registered nurse (RN) is a popular option for those seeking flexibility and strong compensation. However, pay rates can vary quite a bit between different agencies. Understanding how nursing agency pay rate works in the UK and knowing how to compare rates is crucial for nurses to maximize their income potential. This article will break down how nursing agency pay works, what factors impact it, and tips for comparing rates to find the best-paying agency.

How Do Nursing Agencies Determine Pay Rates?

Nursing agencies provide hospitals, clinics, care homes and other healthcare facilities with contract nurses to fill temporary or permanent staffing needs. Furthermore, the facilities pay the agency a set bill rate per hour for each nurse. The agency then pays the nurse a percentage of this bill rate as their take-home hourly wage. 

For example, the agency may charge the hospital £40/hr for a nurse. They would pay the nurse £25/hr and keep the remaining £15 to cover their overhead and profit.

This percentage of the bill rate retained by the nurse can vary quite a bit by agency. Typically it ranges from 50-70%. Higher percentages are usually offered to more experienced nurses or those with specialized skills.

Moreover, on top of the hourly take home rate, many nursing agencies in the UK also offer nurses bonus pay for things like:

  • Working overtime/extra shifts
  • Picking up shifts at the last minute
  • Working night shifts or weekends
  • Working in undesirable locations
  • Getting good feedback/reviews from facilities

Read More: How Much Do Care Agencies Make UK

Factors That Impact Nursing Agency Pay Rates in the UK

Many variables account for the wide range in nursing agency pay rates in the UK. The main factors are:

  • Nurse Experience and Qualifications

More experienced nurses and those with higher qualifications or specialized skills generally command higher pay rates. Newly qualified nurses start at the lower end of the pay scale.

  • Type of Facility

Hospitals, private clinics, and care homes in the UK have different pay rate ranges depending on their budgets and needs. Hospitals tend to pay the most while care homes pay the least.

  • Type of Nursing

Specialties like critical care, A&E, theater, and pediatrics often pay more than general medical/surgical nursing. Mental health nursing tends to fall on the lower end of pay rates.

  • Location 

Facilities in expensive cities or remote regions tend to pay more. London and the Southeast generally have the highest pay rates.

  • Market Demand vs. Supply

Additionally, times and areas experiencing nursing shortages that urgently need to fill roles offer higher rates.

  • Agency Size

Larger agencies with more corporate clients often pay better as they have higher billing volumes.

  • Nurse Ratings/Reviews

Furthermore, agencies offer higher pay to nurses who consistently get 5-star reviews and feedback from facilities.

Comparing Pay Rates Between Agencies in the UK

When comparing agency nursing pay, look at both the base hourly rate as well as bonus opportunities. Here are some key things to look at:

  • Percentage of bill rate – Nursing agencies that pay over 60% tend to offer the best overall rates.
  • Overtime/extra shift bonuses – Look for nursing agencies paying time and a half or double time for overtime hours. Also check if there are bonuses for picking up extra shifts.
  • Weekend and night shift bonuses – Some nursing agencies in the UK also offer weekend and night shift bonuses. These can add £5/hr or more for undesirable shifts.
  • Location incentives – Check nursing agencies in the UK that offer location incentives, especially for working in London or remote regions.
  • Ratings bonuses – See if your nursing agency in the UK offers pay incentives for nurses who maintain high ratings and performance reviews.
  • Guaranteed hours – Some nursing agencies in the UK guarantee nurses a certain number of minimum paid hours per week. This provides more income stability.
  • Benefits – Compare nursing agencies in the UK other perks like retirement plans, paid time off, tuition assistance, referral bonuses etc.

Doing a thorough comparison accounting for all these factors will help you find the nursing agency offering the best overall pay and earning potential as a nurse.


In conclusion, nursing agency pay can vary widely based on a nurse’s experience level, specialty, location, facility type, and agency size and reputation. By carefully comparing the hourly rates, bonus opportunities, benefits, and guaranteed hours offered by different agencies, nurses can identify and work with agencies that offer the highest overall compensation. Checking factors like the bill rate percentage, overtime bonuses, weekends/nights differentials, and nurse rating incentives allows nurses to maximize their income potential through agency work. Doing thorough research ensures nurses find the best agency matches in the UK where they can earn what they deserve.

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