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Contractors mull options as 'growing minority' of locums cancel shifts last minute

Community pharmacy contractors are considering their options following reports of a minority of locums’ “tactics” to obtain higher rates, they have told C+D.

While contractors have no issues with booking locum cover when rate negotiations are “upfront”, there is a “growing minority” who are threatening to cancel their shifts last-minute “to up the rate”, Khalid Khan, head of training at Imaan Healthcare, told C+D yesterday (March 28).

Some contractors are thinking about solutions to this – which could include sharing intelligence about the small number of locum pharmacists who are acting unprofessionally, Mr Khan shared on Twitter.

“As well as the disruption this causes, it also puts staff and patients at risk,” Mr Khan told C+D.

“Contractors are now actively and collectively looking at solutions of how these repeat offenders can be identified and their details shared across the network so they can be avoided completely,” he added.

Contractors could look at a public rating system or collaborate with locum agencies on potentially removing this minority from their databases, he suggested

It is a “shame” that contractors are having to explore these options, Mr Khan said, as he stressed it is only a small number of locums who are behaving in this way.

Do contractors always behave ethically?

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) is aware of reports in “some geographies where locum pharmacists believe that several pharmacy businesses seem to have simultaneously implemented identical so-called ‘maximum rates’ that they will pay”, director Paul Day told C+D last month.

If it was proved that two or more pharmacy businesses had colluded to set maximum rates that they will pay locums, “the PDA believes that this could trigger a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation”, he added.

Merseyside-based community pharmacist Waqas Ahmad agreed that there would be some benefits to contractors coming together, but “not necessarily to create a blacklist”.

“There could be some agreed way of evaluating the performance of locums, in similar ways to the way we do staff appraisals. The feedback could be shared with the locum also so they could have a chance to improve in areas,” Mr Ahmad added.

Meanwhile, Pharmacists' Defence Association director Paul Day told C+D: “Nobody in pharmacy should be behaving unprofessionally. We’ll be looking at what employers do and if there’s any unlawful behaviour regarding blacklisting, we won’t hesitate to challenge it.”


Blacklisting not a good solution


Miraj Patel, CEO of My Locum Choice – a pharmacist recruitment agency – told C+D that “if contractors are trying to get together to solve this problem, they will not have the desired effect that they think they’ll have”.

They could instead collaborate with a locum agency to create a database of locums who might “potentially give them problems”, which Mr Patel says some companies have already done “over the years”.

But “that’s not a blacklist”, he clarified. “It’s very rare that you’ll get a situation where a pharmacy chain will say, ‘OK, I don’t want to use this locum anymore.’”

One way to address the issue would be to “match the right locums to the right businesses”, Mr Patel argued.

“We always try to make sure that we’re putting locums in environments where they’re comfortable and happy. When it comes to contentious issues like this, they’re more willing to be flexible and more willing to accept the rate because they like the place they’re going to work in,” Mr Patel added.

In a blog for C+D today (March 29), David Reissner – chair of the Pharmacy Law & Ethics Association – wrote that contractors must be careful when sharing information about a locum and they must ensure they do not breach GDPR rules when doing so.


NPA raises concerns with GPhC


National Pharmacy Association director of corporate affairs Gareth Jones told C+D that pharmacists need to “follow through on their commitment” once they agree to the terms of a job.

“We have raised concerns with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) about a small number of locums who appear to have reneged on agreements – and we urge them to do more to tackle any unprofessional behaviour,” Mr Jones added.

But the GPhC told C+D last month that (February 24) that it does not have “a regulatory role in relation to rates agreed” between pharmacy contractors and locum pharmacists.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D today that the regulator cannot “take sides in primarily contractual disputes, for example about bookings”.

While failure to honor a locum booking is unlikely to raise concerns about an individual's fitness to practise, each concern raised with the GPhC is looked at “on a case-by-case basis”, they said. 

The average locum rate in Great Britain saw a steep rise to £28.10 per hour in 2021, according to the results of the latest C+D Salary Survey.

However, locum pharmacists told C+D that a rise in rates has not made up for the stresses of the job.


Are contractors and/or locums keeping to their rate agreements? Share your views on the C+D Community

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