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Aman Birdi: The value of a day's work

Shouldn't worth be judged by ability, asks Aman Birdi – not by what employers are prepared to pay?

Pharmacy hasn’t exactly got the best reputation at the moment, particularly among locums. It’s no secret that the supply of pharmacists has increased at an astonishing rate. Don’t get me wrong – the world will always need pharmacists. However, it seems as though employers are taking advantage of this increase by offering lower locum rates than one would expect.

This is worrying, particularly considering the amount of responsibility pharmacists have on our shoulders. Prescription-wise, we are essentially the final link between the GP and the patient – the final call between whether someone takes a medication or not. And I think that is a pretty important call to make in a pressured environment.

However, it’s not the locum rate as such that is worrying me – it is that no matter how much effort I put in, I’ll still be valued at the same rate as the pharmacist who was covering the previous shift.

Yes, I can demonstrate that my value is higher by improving the figures by conducting more medicines use reviews (MURs), increasing NHS health checks and convincing more patients to stop smoking, but what does it matter in the end? I’ll still be paid the same as Joe Bloggs who checked a few prescriptions and spent the rest of their shift on their mobile messaging their friends.

Will I change my approach? No – I will still continue to perform whatever locum shift I have to the utmost of my ability simply because I love my job. I love the fact that I earn a living providing patient care and making positive (sometimes life-saving) contributions to people’s lives, mixed with the potential to drive business for my employer. It’s challenging but it’s my passion, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

But how can this problem be overcome? Do we as pharmacists – who value ourselves higher than our locum pay – raise our demands and refuse shifts? A feasible option, most definitely. But what is to stop an employer simply ignoring this stance and booking another pharmacist? Because the reality is that there are plenty of pharmacists who can be “responsible” and enable the pharmacy to run its usual day-to-day business at a rate that is acceptable to the employer.

Aman Birdi is a pharmacist working in London

Read more by Aman Birdi


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