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Revealed: 43% of locums found it harder to get shifts in 2020

More than two in five locum pharmacists found it more difficult to find work in 2020 compared to 2019, the C+D Salary Survey 2020 has revealed.

The results are based on answers from 180 locum pharmacists who responded to the question, 43% of whom said it was "a lot" or "a little" harder to find shifts in 2020 compared to the previous year.

This is despite an increased workload and staff shortages for community pharmacies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A smaller percentage (28%) of the 221 locum pharmacists who responded to the same question in the C+D 2019 Salary Survey said they had struggled to find work.

The percentages of locums reporting some of their shifts had been cancelled either “occasionally” or “frequently” in 2020 and 2019 did not differ significantly, at 27% and 28% respectively.

At the beginning of the pandemic, some contractors reported that they were finding it difficult to source locum cover. However, in September 2020, three locum agencies told C+D that demand for locum pharmacists had dropped in the spring and summer months.

Increase in emergency shifts

Miraj Patel, CEO of locum booking platform My Locum Choice, told C+D that demand for emergency shifts increased during the pandemic, while “regular work decreased”.

He thinks that the rate increase reported by C+D through its 2020 Salary Survey – which rose by 35p between 2019 and 2020 – “is most likely correlated to the increase in emergency shifts”.

However, demand for locum pharmacists decreased between March and October, which Mr Patel said “is traditionally a period where locum demand is at its highest” as in non-pandemic times, managers and pharmacists would be more likely to go on holiday.

However, due to the pandemic, many could not take their leave, meaning “locums were not needed as frequently”, Mr Patel said.

Jonny Clarke, CEO of online booking platform Locate a Locum, told C+D: “In 2020 as whole, locum shifts were harder to come by”.

“2020 was unlike any other year we have seen, with fluctuations of rates by month and by the city [the locum worked in], which was, in part, down to the ongoing pandemic,” he said.

However, his company is expecting that locum demand will go up again in 2021 as locums will be needed to either administer COVID-19 vaccines or “to backfill shifts of regular pharmacists”, Mr Clarke added.

The C+D Salary Survey 2020 – the largest UK survey of community pharmacy – ran between October 19 and December 10 and was completed by a total of 1,667 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's ongoing coverage from the survey can be found on our dedicated hub.

See how locum rates varied by region in 2020 on C+D’s interactive map.

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

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