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How can we ensure UK locum rates continue to rise?

C+D’s clinical editor – and locum pharmacist – Kristoffer Stewart suggests ways to continue the upward trend in average UK rates

I’m pleased to see that the average UK locum pharmacist rate has increased for the second year in a row, and now stands at £21.63. At 79p, the increase may not be a massive leap since 2017, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Last year, I wrote about the reasons why the drop in locum rates may be levelling off, including: general practice bringing pharmacists into the fold; locums being bolder and boycotting branches that slash their rates; and a slight reduction in EU pharmacists joining the General Pharmaceutical Council register.

Although I doubt locums can return to the relatively lofty heights of the average £24-per-hour paid in 2008 overnight, I believe that locums can successfully strive towards rates that are more reflective of the responsibility and risk associated with the role.

Demonstrate your worth

First and foremost, locums can ensure they make the most of their time in the pharmacy. Whether speaking to the manager in advance – and asking what jobs you can do to help – or asking staff on the day how your skills can best be utilised, you can demonstrate to the entire team that you are bringing a unique set of skills to the pharmacy.

Showing that you are there to support the business, and not simply to serve yourself, helps improve your standing and demonstrates why you are worth higher rates.

Upskill yourself

Whether it’s medicines use review accreditation in England, or flu vaccination training across the UK, it's essential that you have the ability to complete services for the pharmacy you work in. However, you may want to equip yourself to provide services above and beyond what is typically required.

For example, if a pharmacy you regularly locum in runs a travel health clinic, speak to the owner or manager about undergoing training so that you can provide the service when they aren’t present.

Some employers will expect their locum to simply ‘hold the fort’, but you should strive to help the pharmacy thrive.

Negotiating rates

It is essential that you know the ‘going rate’ in an area when you take on a locum shift. You can find this out from locums you know, by using C+D’s interactive UK locum rate map, or on the wide array of social platforms available for locums – where discussions on rates are often a hot topic.

If you are offered a shift and think the rate is too low, then you should speak to the manager or owner and respectfully ask for a rate that you find suitable. It is important to do this prior to the shift; it can be considered unprofessional to ask for more money after you've agreed a rate, and may reduce your likelihood of being offered further work in future.

Support other locums

You may consider other locums as your direct competition, but it’s more constructive to think of them as your peers. I’ve witnessed aggression on social media, but I’ve never experienced personal animosity from another locum because they were worried I would steal their shifts or undercut their rates. Rather, I’ve been offered useful advice – such as which pharmacies pay well, and which leave their locums unsupported.

It is important not to criticise your fellow locums for taking a lower rate than you would. I have previously written about a time when I needed money and was not in a position to turn down poorly paid locum work. Never forget that everyone is facing their own issues. Attacking a pharmacist for taking a lower rate helps no one.

Instead, encourage locums to develop their skills and negotiate for a higher rate when appropriate.

Raise the profession’s profile

I have felt for a long time that the contributions of locums to the community pharmacy sector is under-recognised. To help address this imbalance, C+D has launched a new category for the C+D Awards 2019 – Locum of the Year.

Whether you’ve stood in for a long-term absentee manager, have built a unique rapport with patients, or you've delivered incredible pharmacy services across the nation during a nomadic career, we want to shout about and celebrate your achievements.

Raising the profile of locums can help all of us progress towards the higher rates we deserve.

The C+D Salary Survey 2018 – the largest survey of community pharmacy, and the biggest in the survey's 11-year history – ran throughout October and was completed by a total of 1,916 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's ongoing coverage from the survey can be found here.

Search through hundreds of locum pharmacist jobs on the C+D Jobs website

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