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Locum rate drop reflects latest in real-terms 15-year ‘pay cut’, says PDA

When adjusted for inflation, last year’s sudden drop in locum rates is just another hit to rates that have “significantly” fallen since 2008, the pharmacy union has said.

Last week (February 13), C+D revealed that locums across Great Britain were on average paid £31.67 per hour in 2023.

The rate, calculated from data gathered in C+D’s Salary Survey between October 27 last year and January 8, indicated that the average locum pharmacist rate had dropped for the first time since 2016.

But the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) told C+D that the rise and then fall in locum rates was not just a “pay bubble” growing and then finally bursting.

“Rather than experiencing increased pay, in real terms actually the typical locum has been dealing with a pay cut since 2008 each and every hour they have worked,” PDA director Paul Day said.

“Although in recent years it looked like [pay] might finally get back up to the 2008 levels, it has in fact fallen away again significantly,” he added.



Almost £6 pay cut


The PDA compared C+D’s Salary Survey data with the average locum rate from 2008, adjusted for inflation using Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The union found that adjusted for inflation, the highest average locum rate recorded by C+D - £33.30 per hour in 2022 - was actually a £1.77 pay cut compared to 2008 rates.



And the PDA said that 2023’s rate drop reflected a £5.77 pay cut compared to 15 years ago. 

Mr Day added that “in real terms”, the current rate of £31.67 came just seventh in the ranking of highest locum rates since 2008, not second as it appears when unadjusted for inflation.


Rates “should be higher”


Mr Day stressed that decreasing rates are particularly unfair given locums’ increased responsibility.

“Most people would agree that the value of a locum’s contribution and the demands of the job have gone up since 2008,” he said.

“The rate should be higher in real terms than what it was 15 years ago, not lower as it has actually been all that time,” he added.

Read more: Aggressive’ Rowlands email demands locum Pharmacy First declaration

It comes as locum pharmacists working for Rowlands last month said that they felt “intimidated to deliver Pharmacy First services” at the multiple.

Locums were told they must provide a declaration that they are competent to provide Pharmacy First services, or else may have their booking cancelled.

At the time, Rowlands told C+D that locums are “responsible” for ensuring they are competent to deliver the service and stressed that it has said it “may” cancel locum bookings if they refuse to engage with the service and not that it will.

Read more: GPhC: Pharmacies must ‘assess’ whether they can 'safely offer' Pharmacy First

Meanwhile, an internal email seen by C+D revealed that locums were also last month threatened with removal from Asda’s locum directory if they refused to provide the Pharmacy First service.

The email to local Asda pharmacies suggested that some locums had been “giving out a vibe” that they “may refuse” to offer Pharmacy First services when the advanced service launched last month.

An Asda spokesperson told C+D that it is “providing support” for its pharmacists “to feel confident in providing the new services”.

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