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GPhC: Pharmacy owners should offer locums COVID-19 risk assessments

Mr Rudkin outlined the regulatory argument for COVID-19 risk assessments
Mr Rudkin outlined the regulatory argument for COVID-19 risk assessments

Pharmacy contractors should treat locums as their own employees when it comes to risk assessments, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin has said.

As businesses, pharmacy owners have “responsibilities to anybody attending” their premises, including employees and self-employed locums, Mr Rudkin said in a session on COVID-19 risk assessments at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) annual conference yesterday (July 15).  

Contractors should therefore “not be treating them [locums] differently when it comes to risk assessments,” he added.

“Whether or not they’re your employees, they are workers in your environment. There is at least a public liability obligation and, I think, more widely an obligation to make a safe working environment for locums as well as for your own staff,” he said. .

When questioned later in the session on whether locums should carry out their own risk assessments for COVID-19, Mr Rudkin said employees “have an individual duty to take care of their own care and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work,”. Tt would be a “good idea to encourage self-employed locums to assess their own intrinsic risk”, he said.

However, this should “sit alongside environmental and workplace-related risk [assessments]” carried out by “the owner of the pharmacy and those involved in managing and leading that pharmacy”, he added.

GPhC inspectors will “challenge” employers if they “find evidence that risk assessments are not taking place or not being done appropriately”, he said.

As well as keeping staff and patients safe, risk assessments are an “essential way of documenting” that contractors are meeting both their “legal obligations” and their “regulatory obligations under the GPhC standards”, Mr Rudkin added.

Last month (June 24), NHS England and Improvement set a deadline for COVID-19 risk assessments to be completed for “at-risk groups”, including black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, within four weeks.

Risk assessments were among seven recommendations detailed in a Public Health England report on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups earlier last month (June 16).

Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey that ran between June 12 and 22 revealed that 70% of BAME pharmacists and pre-registration students had not yet been given access to “potentially lifesaving COVID-19 risk assessments”.

What do you make of Mr Rudkin's comments?

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Might be a ruse from Rudkin to get locums in a tangle with HMRC.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Self-employed status is, as the others have said, precious. Yes it has it's drawbacks but the benefits outweigh them. I trust myself to do my own risk assessment and if I am asked to locum (ignore my job title - it's out of date) in a place I consider risky, I reserve the right to withdraw my services on those grounds. If I was to accept an employers risk assessment, I would lose that right.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You're absolutely right. But that company would likely never hire you again in this wonderful industry.....

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

And don't they know it! They have us firmly by the short and curlies. It's just the thought that I COULD that is so appealing! I'm not renewing this year anyway so I haven't got much more of my sentence to serve.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You're one of the lucky ones. Save any sympathy for those newly qualified stepping blindly through the gaes of purgatory with no idea what awaits after the lies from their University lecturers.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Depends what I can get as to whether I'm lucky or not. I've just had enough. My sanity is now worth more to me than the decent house etc. I'm afraid even a life on benefits now feels better than a life of pharmacy, although I've enrolled on a level 3 horticulture course and if I can, I'm going to make a new career out of that because I LOVE growing things. My ideal would be to have my own plant nursery (with a sideline in exotic invertebrate pets! I know, weird right?)

Anthony Chape, Community pharmacist

As a locum, I am my own employer. This is the status I chose and I have m own obligations because of it. My independance from a company is precious. I am well capable of working on my own risk assessment and making decisions from that assessment that are uniquely insightful of my own situation. I do NOT need a company treating me as employee when I am not.

By all means make your placement risk assessments available, but what and how I choose to act upon, is something I and I alone am accountable for. This is the price for being independant ... it is also the benefit. I must not be treated like an employee because I am not an employee.


Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Ahh It's Rudkin, The chap that says Locums are making too much money. Not too sure his opinion means much nowadays.

Andrew Duckenfield, Superintendent Pharmacist

Locums are self employed, and this status regularly comes under questioning by HMRC. To treat them as employees in this case would, I suspect, be foolish indeed. Mr Rudkin should consider his responsibilities in the round before commenting.

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