'Exploitative' £15 locum rate prompts agency policy change

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Islington Pharmacy: Locums not expected to perform advanced services for £15 per hour rate
Islington Pharmacy: Locums not expected to perform advanced services for £15 per hour rate
An online recruitment agency has taken action after concerns were raised over an “exploitative” locum rate posted on its website.

WeLocum was prompted to implement a minimum rate for any locum job advertised on its website, after users complained that one rate “exploited” pharmacists, the agency told C+D last Thursday (March 16).

A job posted by Islington Pharmacy on March 10 – and seen by C+D – advertised for a locum pharmacist at the rate of £15 per hour.

A spokesperson for the independent pharmacy in London said the hourly rate was "all that [they] could afford" and the pharmacy has had locums work for £15 per hour previously.

"At that rate I don't expect locums to do any extra services," the spokesperson added. "I am there most of the time, so locums are just expected to cover regular dispensing, and check off a few [dosette boxes], in a shop that isn't that busy.

"I don't think I am exploiting locums."

"Immediate action"

WeLocum director Dipesh Patel told C+D that the agency “took immediate action” after locums flagged the “below-average rate” being advertised on the website. The business implemented a website change that prohibits the posting of any jobs offering less than £18 per hour.

“Previously the platform allowed pharmacies to post locum jobs at the rate they saw fit,” Mr Patel said. “As WeLocum is not an agency but a free platform to facilitate the booking of locums, we do not have employed staff who are aware or negotiate the rate for any job advertised.

“We respect and understand that individual pharmacy businesses vary across the UK. After reviewing the 2016 C+D Salary Survey – where the average locum rate was mentioned to be £20.50 per hour – a decision was made to implement a minimum rate of £18 per hour for a locum job to reflect this,” he added.

The new policy “should not stop pharmacies from offering their normal rates if they are higher”, Mr Patel stressed.

Cuts bring "time-consuming" pressures

Islington Pharmacy's spokesperson said they needed an extra pair of hands to help the pharmacy meet the new "time-consuming" funding cut requirements, including qualifying for quality payments.

"This isn't the job for you if your prime concern is rates," they added.

Read all the latest locum-related news, views and analysis in C+D's Locum Zone.

54 Comments
Question: 
What do you think is an acceptable minimum hourly rate to pay locums?

Steve Beddeo, Retail Management

This is the same company that charged its locums and faced a backlash from locums. 

Tom Kennedy, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Okay lets compromise, a minimum of £21 per hour but deduct £1 every time the locum makes a personal call, watches a cat video on youtube, turns up late, ignores a customer, forgets their eps card, spends an hour with the staff making a statue out of boxes and bottles (I saw you on the camera jerk), ordering excess fortisip, cancelling shifts because of a speeding awareness course... etc.  

ajaz akhtar, Student

The break even is apparently 3000 items. I think the figures is closer to 3500 items ..

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

I sympathise with every community pharmacist/locum out there. This is a sad reflection of what is happening - you've got employers who are contending with increased rates/funding cuts/loss of commissioned services, and then the over-supply of pharmacists, which is adding to this deflation of rates. The bodies that were supposedly looking out for the future of pharmacy have done very little to restore balance or implement change. We are all paying the price now. For those saying that the rate should be a minimum of £21, have you thought about the impact that some pharmacies are going to experience as a result of the funding cuts? Just to put it into perspective, Lidl/Aldi shop assistants are paid £10/hr - why anyone would contemplate doing a pharmacy degree now is beyond me. A very sad state of affairs, definately not helped by the politicians/pharmacy bodies or the educational bodies. Each party has thought of their own benefits, at the expense of the profession as a whole!

sanjai sankar, Locum pharmacist

And not only that they expect us to embrace CPD wholeheartedly....There is such little incentive, people just "get by."...This encourages mediocrity and corner cutting in our profession which further adds to the poor state of affairs the profession has become...

ajaz akhtar, Student

It's an easy target....I really feel for the new kids on the block who qualify in September. They will suffer immensely 

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

What of their personal responsibility to getting into horrendous levels debt in order to gain entry into a 'profession' with such poor prospects. 

With respect, I have to disagree. You enter into this knowing some very well established risks, sympathy doesn't come into it anymore. 

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

And... in a couple of years time when governemnt funding for pharmacists in GP surgeries dries up there'll be an additional influx of refugee 'clinical' pharmacists. Add to that the Open University will probably be offering study-at-home online MPharms by then, and there'll be a lot of very over-qualified shelf stockers hanging around the OTC meds section of Aldi/Lidl trying to use their degrees!

Dave Downham, Manager

If the government has their way, Aldi & Lidl will be selling - and I mean selling, not dispensing - prescription medicines anyway.

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

1) A minimum rate is not enforceable - you can go direct with your lower rate

2) A small number of low rate locums cannot have an AUTOMATIC domino effect on the rates of the vast majority of locums who have the FREE WILL to refuse that rate

1 + 2 = 3) Employee/Locum pharmacists do not fear a small number of low rate pharmacists they fear the weakness of a large number of pharmacists who will panic and grab whatever they can get.

4) Many hundreds of pharmacies are about to close/merge whilst every year new schools of pharmacy churn out many hundreds of excess pharmacists  (even against the old number of pharmacies)

5) The combination of new technology, the more aggressive use of ACTs and the focus on pseudo-clinical services (that patients don't want, most doctors don't respect and governments would happily remove) makes pharmacists more and more irrelevant and redundant 

If you are planning a career in community pharmacy on the basis of anything other than a low wage/high unemployment scenario, you deserve everything that is about to happen to you. This was all obvious ten years ago, you have had plenty of time to prepare - suck it up. 

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

So very true.  I often think you are my mindtwin with your views.  Before retiring early I was frowned upon by my peers for airing exactly your points to pharmacy students / young qualified pharmacists.  My heart bleeds for them.  I knew I was right all along.

Aurangzeb Yousaf, Superintendent Pharmacist

This article reflects poor journalism as there are huge gaps in painting a complete picture and appears to have missed key points made during the two minute phone interview.

100 hour Pharmacies based in London have higher staff and business expenses.

Like any job a rate depends on the services expected. So if you are expected to do MURS, NMS, Minor ailments, dispensing, dosettes with poor staff support then the rate should reflect this.

It seems a lot of locums appear disgruntled with the rates because of their short sightedness of business in the real world. It’s all about, ‘Supply and Demand.’ Why aren’t universities being targeted to reduce the supply of pharmacists? (Because it’s a business to them too.)

Lloyds pharmacy are offering relief locums £16/hour in certain parts of London. So why aren’t they being put on the spot light?

WeLocum.com appears to have put another nail in the coffin of independent pharmacies by placing caps on rates. While acknowledging varying pharmacy needs it has succumb to loud disgruntled locums who have shot themselves in the foot since less work will be on offered at the higher rates. Surely, locums are sensible enough to make their own decisions based on their individual requirements. If it’s not for you simply jog on.

Pharmacies must certainly be weary of locums asking about rates before asking about the services being expected. Surely more important factors include support staff, work load, being competent in the services being expected, being competent in the PMR used by the pharmacy etc.

Good journalism should include interviews from locums who have worked in, ‘exploitative,’ pharmacies in order to get their views and a correct picture. None has been done. .

This article has capitalized on creating sensationalism with little research done rather like Trump in his campaign.

Courage Asemota, Locum pharmacist

''100 hour Pharmacies based in London have higher staff and business expenses.''...... agreed 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

The logical follow up to the erosion of locum rates is the erosion of employed pharmacist rates which will then lead to all of the potentially decent pharmacy students seeing the light and doing something else instead - the surplus of schools of pharmacy will then have to take on all the dross that is left and the whole profession is then on the slide (even more so than it is now)

Courage Asemota, Locum pharmacist

I think alot of us are missing an important point here. An employer has the RIGHT to offer £15 per hour  and a Locum has the RIGHT to refuse. You do not have to say yes to that rate just refuse and go to the person who is offering a better rate. This is how the game is played. I worked for 14.50 per hour for almost two years but I was very happy with my employer and where I was and i stayed because i had a personal goal that was not related to finance. If finance is your goal and someone offers you 18 per hour and you are not happy then refuse it and go work for the person who is paying more thats the game. You dont have to do it . There are plenty of oportunities out there. 

La Dakinio, Community pharmacist

Were you working for Aurangzeb? Working for so little is eroding the professionalism of community pharamcy. You are allowing yourself, and others to be exploited. 

 

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

We're our own biggest enemy. Like idiots we've handed out leaflets and asked customers to sign petitions to 'save our pharmacies from the cuts'. And this is how we are  repaid for our loyalty? Employees and locums need a strong union and they need to stick together. This, I fear is an impossibility. At employee/locum level the 'profession' is as weak as dish water. It will continue to be bullied and taken advantage of by employers, the GPhC, doctors, etc. The future is bleak I fear. Maybe when the rate hits £10/hr people will wake up?

Bilal Shah, Community pharmacist

I don't understand how setting a minimum rate of £18/hr is helping locums? If anything, this will encourage employers to set a rate of 18 and not go higher (even if they were previously paying higher)

Making the base rate 21 will be more acceptable

Benjamin Leon D'Montigny, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I used to get better pay as a locum dispenser. I don't think it is right that I can earn more than a pharmacist. It perhaps comes down to a fundamental shift needs to occur in the community pharmacy setting?

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

"This isn't the job for you if your prime concern is rates," they added.... You aren't kidding. Soon we'll be making minimum wage.

Mahdi Heshmati Rafsanjani, Locum pharmacist

I keeping hearing this. All those who keep saying 'if locums don't like the rates, then stop accepting those silly rates'. Quite an absurd, troubling argument. If a select number of locums are willing to push national rates down for their own greedy small gains, why should everyone suffer? It's as ludicrous as telling society, if you hate being murdered, stop murdering yourselves. Well that's why there is laws and regulations in society. You police people because some break rules for various reasons. You don't say 'let's educate them' or 'well they should stop committing crimes if they want to prosper as a society'. Similarly, how can you justify any rate degradation because of 'those who accept those rates'. It's irrelevant. That never justifies exploitation of a whole group.

A M, Locum pharmacist

£18 as a minimum rate is still terrible. The base rate should be £21 and no less. Weekends, unsociable hours etc should be even higher. If you're going to work for teen rate,  just work as a technician or ACT. Why take on the role as RP for a similar/same rate?

Z H, Locum pharmacist

I believe all agencies can regain the trust of majority of Locum's by setting a minimum base rate of £21/hr. As things are developing, agencies will soon become extinct! On the flip side, if you are a locum and accepting teen rates, please just work as a dispenser/technician for which you will get similiar  rates with less responsibility! #Stand up for your profession 

ajaz akhtar, Student

Why don't you just approach ppl direct, cut out the middle man who basically do F ALL and get fee for each day you slave away

 

Peter Taylor, Locum pharmacist

"This isn't the job for you if your prime concern is rates."

I do volunteer work in my spare time, but when I work I'm providing for myself and my family. £15 per hour after tax and student loan repayment is more like £11 per hour to take home. Then consider professional fees, indemnity insurance, paying for training, travel and parking.

The rapidly shrinking locum rate should be the primary concern of all locums nationwide. If all locums just agreed to act as a unit and refuse these dodgy teen rates then the companies would struggle to push the rate down. Pharmacists should value themselves and have more self respect- we are experts in medicines and deserve to be treated and paid as professionals.

T. Pharm., Community pharmacist

All locums will never act as a "unit" - it just won't happen.

You know why? Because we are our own worst enemies.

There is always going to be another Locum out there willing to work for less money, for longer periods, and take upon more work in the process. We have shot ourselves in the foot.

And unless any pharmacutical bodies intervene and prevent rates from dropping down any further, then this decline could continue.

 

 

 

 

ajaz akhtar, Student

Peter....just like you this guy wants to earn money. It's not his problem you have bills to pay. It's called business. Look it up 

Seal Patel, Community pharmacist

If they offer £15 and someone takes £15, dont point fingers at the employer...point fingers at the pharmacist for allowing them to degrade their/our value! 

ajaz akhtar, Student

Can't wait till autumn 

I'll be paying £13 an hour...3000 more pharmacists fighting for work 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm guessing you are the new guise of Ben Stokes, student.

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