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Locum rates lowest in seven years

Hourly pay has fallen by £3 an hour since C+D first surveyed rates in 2008, with locums blaming employers and an oversupply of pharmacists

EXCLUSIVE

Average hourly locum rates have fallen below £21, a £3 drop since 2008, the C+D Salary Survey 2015 has revealed.

The average rate is now £20.85, according to the 252 locums who responded to the survey between September 29 and November 11. This is the lowest since C+D first surveyed hourly locum rates in 2008, when the average was £24, and represented a drop of almost £1 from the last survey in 2013.

The figure was significantly below the £25 that 78 per cent of locums named as the minimum reasonable hourly pay. Half of locums blamed employers for the falling rates, but many also said the lack of control over student numbers had flooded the market with too many pharmacists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, only 23 per cent of locums surveyed said they would recommend pharmacy as a career.

Regional variations

There were some geographical variations between pay, and locums in the north east came out as the highest paid with an average hourly rate of £22.04. Rates appeared lowest in Northern Ireland; although only five locums in the region responded, all of them took home less than £18 an hour.

Northern Irish hospital pharmacist Jonathon Clarke, a former locum who left partly because of poor pay, told C+D the drop in rates could damage the profession by driving the most ambitious pharmacists away. Mr Clarke also owns Locate a Locum Now, a service that matches employers to locums, and said the “top rate” for locums in Northern Ireland was around £160 a day – less than £18 an hour for a nine-hour day. “I think it is directly related to the oversupply [of pharmacists],” he said.

 

Going to great lengths

Locums told C+D that pharmacists in urban areas were hit hardest by oversupply and had to travel to rural areas to find work. Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster LPC chief executive Rekha Shah, who locums part-time, told C+D it was “frightening” that young pharmacists in London struggled to find work for more than two or three days a week.

“In London, there’s too little work for the numbers we have. [Pharmacists are] willing to travel two hours there and two hours back to try and get some work. It’s really sad,” she said.

Kent-based Alisdair Jones, a part-time locum who qualified last summer, said the problem was exacerbated by many pharmacies no longer paying travel expenses. “We still get people who travel from East Sussex [or] London, it’s quite a long way. And yes, it’s their choice, but sometimes it’s the only choice they’ve got if they’re struggling to find work.”

Locum Kevin Moseley said his rates had dropped suddenly in the past year, from £23 or £24 an hour down to an average of £21. He said pharmacies had now set rates for locums – as opposed to a few years ago, when they were negotiable. “The ball’s in their [the employers’] court,” he told C+D.

Pharmacists' Defence Association director John Murphy said the oversupply of pharmacists was pushing rates towards a “point of no return”.

“It’s getting to the stage where pharmacists are saying enough is enough,” he stressed. “From our point of view, we’re trying to support them in whatever way we can as individuals if they’re being treated unfairly and we’re still trying very hard to put a cap on graduates.”

In October, the government announced it would not cap pharmacy student numbers, despite support from the majority of the sector for a limit.

 

How will falling locum rates impact the profession?

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