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Average locum rate rises again as agency warns of market ‘squeeze’

The average UK locum rate continued to rise this year, with significant national differences in hourly pay, according to an analysis carried out by booking platform Locate a Locum.

Locate a Locum recorded a UK-average rate at £38.86 across the UK in the third quarter of this year, rising 3.7% on the £37.49 recorded across the UK in the previous quarter, according to the agency’s analysis.

The locum market could see a further “squeeze” in the coming months, with rising inflation, higher borrowing costs and staff pay increase demands heaping further pressures on pharmacy owners, Locate a Locum warned.

Meanwhile, demand for locums in rural parts of the UK mean that pharmacists can expect to earn “premium” rates in these areas, the agency suggested.

Read more: Locum agency reveals 10 cities with highest hourly rate for pharmacists

Scotland recorded the highest national average rate, with locums attracting £45.93 per hour. Wales was next with an average rate of £45.32, followed by England at £38.03.

Northern Ireland recorded the lowest national rate, with average hourly locum pay pegged at £29.09 according to Locate a Locum’s analysis.

The agency analysed more than 56,000 locum pharmacist shifts booked via its platform between July 1 and September 30 and compared these with the second quarter of 2022, April 1 to June 30.

The rate rise falls behind the UK’s national average weekly wage growth of 5.2% according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics in September.

 

Scotland sees rate decrease

 

While the UK average rate grew, Scotland saw its third quarter rate drop by £2.93 from £48.86 per hour recorded in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, rates across Wales, England and Northern Ireland all rose in this period. Wales reported an increase of £7.39 on average in the third quarter from £37.93.

In Northern Ireland, rates grew by an average of £1.62 from £27.47 and in England the average rose by £1.08, up from the £36.95 recorded in the second quarter.

“Both Scotland and Wales have large rural areas and can demand average rates of over £45 per hour,” Locate a Locum’s report noted.

“Regardless of this market correction [in Scotland], it is clear that there is still a requirement for a ‘rural premium,’” it added.

In September, Locate a Locum revealed that locum pharmacists across the UK were earning on average 14% more than in April 2021, according to its analysis.

 

Forecast

 

The report also forecast however that the “locum employment market could be squeezed further” in the coming months.

“With the UK forecasted to enter recession, pharmacies will continue to see their cash flow impacted by surging inflation, higher borrowing costs, and their permanent and temporary workers demanding higher pay rates,” it noted.

Another notable change in the pharmacist market is the movement of community pharmacists to Primary Care Networks, it said.

CEO and founder of Locate a Locum, Jonathon Clarke, said an increase in locum rates “has also been exacerbated by the fact that many pharmacists have taken long-overdue holidays or sickness absences”.

Pharmacy teams are also currently occupied with the COVID-19 booster rollout, and “these factors will continue to exert pressure on the sector for the foreseeable future”, he predicted.

Read more: Which major pharmacy groups reported the biggest number of temporary closures?

Earlier this month, a C+D investigation revealed that some 3,660 pharmacies across England reported temporarily closing between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022. Affected pharmacies reported shutting their doors a total of 20,924 times during this period.

C+D’s analysis found that the majority of temporary closures across England were attributed to a lack of locum cover.

Pharmacies provided “locum could not be found” as the reason for having to close temporarily in 10,637 instances, while “no cover found” featured 811 times.

While some employers and pharmacy representative bodies have told C+D in recent months that some temporary closures are due to a lack of pharmacist availability, this reason has been disputed by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).

The PDA claims that on some occasions the closures occur even when locum cover can be found.

 

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