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GPhC: Locums should not ‘profit’ by co-ordinating COVID-19 rate hike

Locums should not to try to profit from the COVID-19 outbreak by colluding to “inflate their hourly rate”, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive has told C+D.

The GPhC is “concerned” about reports that “a small minority of locum pharmacists” are co-ordinating to “significantly inflate” their hourly rates, Mr Rudkin told C+D last week (April 3).

“We are in no way trying to suggest that all locums are taking advantage of the current emergency to negotiate higher rates, or that locums cannot individually negotiate rates with their clients,” he said.

However, neither contractors nor locums should be looking to “profit from” the COVID-19 outbreak by “involving themselves in anti-competitive action”, Mr Rudkin added .

The GPhC will “continue to take a balanced and even-handed approach to issues raised about some pharmacy owners and some members of the profession”, he continued.

“The important role locum pharmacists are playing”

“The requirement to behave professionally at all times remains in place and at this time of national crisis it is more important than ever that everyone’s first concern is for patients and the public,” Mr Rudkin said.

The GPhC understands “the important role locum pharmacists are playing by helping to keep pharmacies open to provide safe and effective care for patients” and is “very grateful for their contribution”, he added.

Earlier this month, (March 19) he warned the sector against “profiteering to take selfish advantage” of the COVID-19 outbreak, either with “prices of shortage products or locum rates” and was met with criticism from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).

In a statement published last week (March 30), the PDA argued that locums are within their rights to negotiate higher hourly pay during the crisis. The PDA said that while it agreed with the regulator that vastly inflated locum rates during the pandemic could “undermine wider public confidence in the profession”the GPhC has “no other legitimate regulatory interest in the commercial rates agreed between locums and their clients”.

C+D has spoken to locums and contractors from across the UK to find out if rates have increased and whether higher rates are justified in the current situation.

Read C+D's feature on the controversy around raising locum rates following the COVID-19 outbreak

What do you make of Mr Rudkin's comments?

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