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GPhC must tackle contractors withholding locum pay, PDA urges

People The PDA Union has taken on almost 400 cases of employers refusing to pay locums in the past year and John Murphy (pictured) is calling for the GPhC's support in the form of regulatory action to eliminate the problem

The PDA Union has called on the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to clamp down on employers who regularly fail to pay locum pharmacists.

The PDA Union took on almost 400 cases of employers refusing to pay locums for their services over the past year, it said. This included at least 15 companies that repeatedly put themselves into liquidation to avoid payment and employers that withheld sums of up to £20,000.

"We believe that regulatory action is appropriate to stamp out this behaviour" John Murphy, PDA Union

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The union called on the GPhC to take action against the "unacceptable and unprofessional practice" of hiring locums without any intention of paying them. "We believe that regulatory action is appropriate to stamp out this behaviour and will be asking the GPhC how best to tackle this issue," said PDA Union general secretary John Murphy.

The GPhC said it would await further information from the PDA before responding to the comments.

Mr Murphy added that, in some instances, locum agencies were "fuelling the situation". "Locum agencies have got the biggest responsibility of anyone in this because they're crafting the conditions that locums work in," he argued. "Because they're backed by contractors, they tend to keep their heads down and, to a large extent, they're part of the problem."

But Shaun Hockey, managing director of locum recruitment agency PL-UK, said "contractors alone" were responsible for working conditions.

"We would never place a locum in conditions that we felt were unsafe or where we thought they might not be paid," he told C+D.

Founder of the Locum Voice forum Lindsey Gilpin said she was aware of some employers failing to pay locums and called on locum agencies to "keep a very careful eye" on any employers they suspected of the practice.

"I wouldn't blame [locum agencies] but I think now that the subject has been raised, it's time for them to be a little bit more circumspect and careful," she told C+D.

At the start of the year, the PDA warned that locums were likely to face a tough year as employers saw them as "low-hanging fruit" for cutting costs.

What else could be done to protect locums?

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