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‘Rapidly inflating’: Pharmacy bodies raise concerns over increased locum rates

Worries over the availability of pharmacists and “rapidly inflating locum rates” could hamper the ability of pharmacies “of all sizes” to “reach their full potential”, pharmacy bodies have warned.

Pharmacy bodies cautioned that “pharmacies of all sizes are struggling and worried about both the availability of pharmacists, and about rapidly-inflating locum rates”, in light of a new report on the pharmacy workforce

Both factors “could limit pharmacies’ ability to reach their full potential to both help patients and support the wider NHS”, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) wrote in a joint statement yesterday (July 26).

Meanwhile, locum advocates have hit back on this “attack” on rates and insisted that hourly pay is merely increasing in line with inflation.

Read more: MPs push government for funded pharmacy workforce plan

It follows the Health and Social Care Committee’s call for an “integrated and funded” pharmacy workforce plan to be developed and laid before parliament within the next year, in a report published on Monday (July 24).

The pharmacy bodies added that they had recently written to the committee’s chair, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt over “continued concerns regarding the workforce challenges, coupled with eight years of a real-terms decrease in funding, that the community pharmacy sector is experiencing”.

 

PDA: “Attack” won't make community roles more appealing

   

Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union director Paul Day claimed to C+D that while the group wants to help make community pharmacy roles more attractive, pharmacy employers “have chosen to negotiate with government without the legitimate independent voice of locum and employed pharmacists”.

It is “disappointing” that “employers are now continuing their previous claims that there are insufficient pharmacists, while now simultaneously claiming that there are in fact pharmacists, but that they are too expensive”, he said.

Read more: Off their trolley: Has Tesco Pharmacy pushed the locum rate row to new highs?

The joint statement from the pharmacy bodies “singles out locum rates, rather than any other costs such as the wholesalers’ margins, or community pharmacy’s own desire for profits,” he added.

“The PDA does not think attacking locum rates is going to make it more likely that existing or newly qualified pharmacists will want to work in the sector, on either basis,” he stressed.

 

 

Meanwhile, locum pharmacist and co-owner of Schedule Four Consultancy Tohidul Islam took to Twitter to stress that locum rates are “not rapidly inflating” but are instead increasing “in line with inflation”.

“No wonder people are leaving the sector,” he added.

Read more: Pharmacist workforce issues drive employment solutions, says NHSE&I boss

Last week (July 22), Tesco Pharmacy fielded allegations that it is pressuring locums to accept lower pay for shifts they had already confirmed – or risk losing out on work – by pointing to four fixed locum rates capped at £36 per hour it introduced earlier this month.

Meanwhile, last month, the then pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield told C+D that pharmacy is not the only sector dealing with increasing demand for locums and rising hourly rates – with pressures being felt across primary care.

 

What did the Health and Social Care Committee advise?

 

The committee’s report advised that the pharmacy workforce plan “must ensure that all pharmacists have adequate access to supervision, training, and protected learning time, along with clear structures for professional career development into advanced and consultant-level practice”.

The plan should also take into consideration that all newly qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers by 2027, the committee wrote.

Read more: Pharmacy bodies plea to protect ‘exhausted and starved-of-funding’ sector

In its statement, the pharmacy bodies welcomed “MPs’ recognition of these issues” – although they urged the government to now take forward the “long-term workforce development plan for pharmacy to start to address them”.

This, “combined with sustainable funding for the sector, would mean that all pharmacies can continue offering the safe and high-quality services that patients and the NHS have come to rely on,” they added.

 

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