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‘Nightmare’: Locum agency hit with 89 cancellations after Eid rates ‘not enough’

Pharmacy locum rates for the start of Eid were “not attractive enough”, leading to an unusually high number of cancellations, C+D has learned.

Locum agency Locum Prime revealed that it had 89 cancellations from locums due to Eid rates not being “attractive enough” to entice pharmacists to keep their shifts during the time of celebration following Ramadan.

Read more: Revealed: The average locum pharmacist pay rate in 2022

It told C+D on Friday (April 21) that it faced “a lot of locums not willing to cover the locum shifts on Eid” and that locums who were “already booked cancelled their bookings because the rates were not attractive enough for them to go to their shift”.

It added that “most” of the 89 cancellations happened on Friday morning and Thursday evening “because the locums didn’t know which day Eid was going to fall on, so we got little notice”.


Unusually high cancellation rate


This was an “unusual number of short-notice cancellations” compared with an average of 19-25 per day, with 90% of the “high” number of cancellations down to the three-day Muslim holiday, Locum Prime said.

“If the rate was competitive, then they would have been motivated to go to their shift on Eid [but] because the rate wasn’t really attractive, they cancelled shifts,” it added. 

Read more: ‘Bleak outlook’: PSNC survey highlights temporary closures and staff shortages

The agency told C+D that it “struggled to find replacements” for the cancellations due to the low rates, leaving pharmacy clients unhappy at being left “short-staffed” at “short notice”.

“The pharmacies were really upset – the cancellations are a nightmare for them because they have to change all of their plans now,” it said.

However, it added that rates didn’t rise as they usually would during holidays, because April is at the beginning of the financial year when pharmacies “review their locum budget”.


Majority of cancellations at multiples


Locum Prime said that of the 89 cancellations it received, the majority at 85%-90% were for “big chain” and multiple pharmacies.

It added that “luckily” the cancellations didn’t cause any of the pharmacies to close as they only needed locums as “as additional support staff cover”.

Read more: ‘Locum could not be found’: Was 2022 the year of the temporary pharmacy closure?

But it said that independent community pharmacies – which “tend to become completely dependent on locum staff during the holidays” such as Eid – have “no other option but to close if they are short staffed”.


£45-per-hour Eid rate


Meanwhile, Capital Locums told C+D that it suffered “very few” cancellations after offering an Eid rate, increasing its highest rate by £10 from £35 per hour to £45 per hour.

“We had some cancellations earlier in the week but very few,” it said, adding that “most locums didn’t take work” for Eid because they had “planned in advance”.

Read more: A fifth of employee pharmacists report ‘dangerous’ levels of understaffing

It told C+D that “a couple of locums asked for a higher rate than £45 to work on Eid” but “didn’t get work” with the agency.

Capital Locums “didn’t offer anything higher than £45”, which “some proprietors would say [is] too much and some locums would say isn’t enough”, it said.

It comes as a major survey by the pharmacy negotiator this month revealed that there were almost 6,000 hours of unplanned temporary pharmacy closures over just one month, saying that this and staff shortages are contributing to “a bleak outlook for the sector’s future”.

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