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COVID-19 caused up to 70% drop in demand for locums

Locum agencies have reported a drop in demand for locum pharmacists during spring and summer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, C+D has found.

“In normal circumstances”, demand for locum pharmacists is at its highest during the spring and summer months, My Locum Choice CEO Miraj Patel told C+D earlier this month (September 10).

However, this year “COVID-19 hit during that time and locum work was affected”,  Mr Patel explained. My Locum Choice “saw the demand drop significantly, to as much as 70% fewer requests than normal”, he said.

Normally, employed pharmacists would “take the majority of their holidays during summer” but this year they were “unable to travel” due to the pandemic, leading to a decrease in demand for locum cover, Mr Patel added.

He expects demand for locums to continue to decline “as we enter the autumn and winter months, where the focus would be on delivering flu jab services”.

“To ensure consistency in providing this service, most employed pharmacists would remain in their roles during this time,” Mr Patel said.

Higher demand in March

Jonny Clarke, CEO of  Locate a Locum, told C+D earlier this month (September 16) that the company registered a 30% increase in posted locum shifts at the start of the pandemic in March, “and some large rates being offered”, as pharmacies “anticipated higher demand”.

However, “this demand then decreased by 40% from April to June, compared to March 2020 figures, as travel was cancelled and footfall fell in pharmacies”, Mr Clarke said.

Demand for locums has gone up again more recently, in August and September, he said. Locate a Locum attributes this to “regular pharmacists having a backlog of holidays that they need to take”, he added.

Pharmaseekers director Amy Banks told C+D earlier this month (September 15) that the company also registered a “massive increase in emergency (short notice) vacancies for locums in March, immediately after lockdown”.

In line with the experience of the other two agencies’, Pharmaseekers then saw “a lot of cancellations of future existing bookings over the summer months, due to pharmacy staff cancelling their holidays”, she added.  

In April, C+D reported that a minority of locum pharmacist had increased their rates following the outbreak of COVID-19. While the Pharmacists’ Defence Association said that it would be an “absurdity” to report locums to the General Pharmaceutical Council for negotiating higher hourly rates, the regulator told C+D that locums should not profiteer from the pandemic by inflating their hourly rates.

As a locum pharmacist, have you struggled to find shifts during the pandemic?

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