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Lloyds probes claims of branch closures despite locum availability

Lloydspharmacy: The GPhC has been informed of this
Lloydspharmacy: The GPhC has been informed of this

Lloydspharmacy is “conducting an investigation” following claims accusing the multiple of temporarily closing some of its branches even when locum pharmacist cover is available.

Last week, several people shared their concerns on Twitter that Lloydspharmacy was opting to provisionally close some of its branches rather than increase its locum pay rate to find pharmacist cover.

In response, a Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D that the multiple is “aware of the complaints and our superintendent pharmacist is currently conducting an investigation”.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) “has been informed of this”, the spokesperson added.

A GPhC spokesperson confirmed to C+D that the regulator contacted Lloydspharmacy superintendent Victoria Steele, but they were not able to share further details.

Locum shifts left unfilled

One Twitter user provided a list of Lloydspharmacy branches they said they were aware had to temporarily close due to poor staffing levels. The branches remained closed despite locum pharmacists having applied to cover the shifts advertised by those same pharmacies, they claimed.

Another user worried that the temporary closures would put patients at risk, leaving them unable to collect their medicines.

Locum pharmacist Tohidul Islam actively asked the GPhC on Twitter whether they would investigate the closures highlighted by a Twitter user. This prompted the regulator to respond that the issue would be raised with the multiple’s superintendent.

Mr Islam told C+D today (March 22) that he has received a “large number of reports from locums all over the UK who have said they were ready and willing to cover Lloydspharmacy branches, but claim they were refused over a difference of a couple of pounds per hour”.

PDA: Not just one employer

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day told C+D last week that this issue does not concern “just one employer”.

“Having pharmacists available in the community is a valuable part of the health service, so when patients are denied access to their local pharmacy because it closes unnecessarily, it is a concern,” Mr Day said.

The pharmacy contractor might also be in breach of their NHS agreement in the instance of these specific closures, Mr Day added.

“If the contractor claims the closure is because no locum was available, but locums know for certain that they were available and had told that contractor that they were available, that can raise further questions about what is happening and could even be of interest to the regulator,” according to Mr Day.

The PDA had noticed an increase in these reports of closures in England last year, he added. This prompted the union to create a template that locums can use to flag these occurrences to NHS England and NHS Improvement.

“[The PDA] will continue to help the NHS by supporting our members in highlighting such instances in all four of the UK nations,” he added.

30 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of these claims?

Long Standing, Primary care pharmacist

All I would say it is  down to the bigger picture ... increase rates now and that is set in stone and becomes the "normal" rate meaning in 5-10 years less net profit  for Lloyds - shut pharmacies now show "due to a shortage of pharmacists "perfect excuse "" get something put in place to plug the gap at a low rate through legislation or border control and profits increased within 10 years  -- short term loss long term gain -- simples 

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Shift available on venloc for saturday 20th of march at branch 666.. special rate £19/hr 

Getting Shorter, Community pharmacist

Hardly news. Been happening regularly for at least 20 years.

Secret Insider, Community pharmacist

Unfortunately it also falls back on to us, the companies pharmacists and pharmacy managers, who get a call the morning of their first day of a much needed holiday with the rota team 'just asking if there is any possibility you could go into branch today as we have struggled to find cover'. Thanks, I feel so valued as an employee.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Learn to assert yourself. That's fundamental foe any professional if you believe yourself to be one. 

Secret Insider, Community pharmacist

I can confirm this to be the only way

C A, Community pharmacist

I believe the answer to that particular question is "no", especially when pharmacists have to give head office three months of notice. 

Secret Insider, Community pharmacist

It is the firmest no that can be mustered followed by a long awkward deafening silence

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

So after one allegation of pharmacists overcharging, it would seem that spreading them over more than one branch or closing them reduces the amount of profit so far as GPHC is concerned.
 

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Again,big pharma will get away with it

Cod Fillet, Community pharmacist

I hope the regulators (NHS and GPhC) don't miss this chance to show they have any purpose. This is an absolute race to the bottom. Deliberately having one Locum covering a few hours in several branches!! Just shut the shops. Let's not forget that the ultimate responsible is this conservative government that for more than 10 years has been destroying community pharmacy. How are we earning same or less than we were 20y ago?? Is there any other profession out there where this happened? I don't think so.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

It is also the fault of the government who allowed (even encouraged) monopolies by the ‘big’ chains....it was always only going to end one way!

Pharmacists should be the only owner of a pharmacy and the number they can own should be limited - similar to Australia

Too many schools of pharmacy and too many students - although, this latest ploy will likely be to try to prove that there isn’t enough Pharmacists so they need to be allowed to employ from abroad

R A, Community pharmacist

"Pharmacists should be the only owner of a pharmacy and the number they can own should be limited - similar to Australia"

You hit the nail on the head! I wanted to buy a pharmacy but I realised that current levels of remunerations made it impossosible to operate a pharmacy with sufficient profits to maintain a sensible level of staffing and allow owners to invest in their business. I am aware that some contractors have invested in their business significantly but many have owned their business for nearly two decades meaning that they have some financial flexibility. 

Unfortunately under current environment the only interested party left are the multiples. Cynically I believe the government wants that since if the ownership was in the hand of pharmacists this sector would never have ended in such a sorry state. I think this explains the exodus of community pharmacists to primary care. 

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Multiples won't be able to operate at a profit 

Only contractors who work as the pharmacist or those who have owned during the good times and expect less remuneration than in the good times (pre 2015)

R A, Community pharmacist

I think the endgame of all multiples is to shift the patient to online service and have all RX dispensed via central hubs using machines. Given the state of this economy the government wont dispute with such services.  

A Pharmacist, Allocation & Distribution

Why are the PDA rushing to defend Lloyds? Is it part of their new agreement for the PDA to try to divert attention away?

If "not just one employer" then why don't the the PDA say which other employers are involved? Who else are they protecting?

Pharmacy owners THEMSELVES have told the NHS that there are THOUSANDS of pharmacy closures, but the NHS does nothing. The PDA wrote to NHS England then too, so what's the point in the form they have created???!

https://www.the-pda.org/freedom-of-information-request-reveals-thousands-of-pharmacy-closures-during-normal-opening-hours/

Chocolate teapot springs to mind

Also Lloyds doing its own investigation, bet that will be really effective......

John Portfolio career, Primary care pharmacist

"We've conducted an investigation into this excellent cost cutting idea that would artificially improve our bottom line and make us appear more attractive to potential buyers. We can categorically state that this is not happening. The locums are lying, they are all too busy ripping off the NHS by refusing to do COVID vaccines for free. Anyone who complains about this will be reported to the GPhC for bringing the profession into disrepute and they answer to us."

SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

I also know that even though Locums are available.... Lloyds are asking ONE Locum to cover up to THREE pharmacies a few hours at a time.....rather than pay for an increased rate.... Just so you know, it's not me... I retired :-)

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Becoming very close to the practical implementation of Remote Supervision with one pharmacist covering multiple pharmacies.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Recently one such locum was fool enough to travel over 40 miles to hand out methadone while the store they were booked in was closed for over two hours.
They were apparently given petrol money.

C A, Community pharmacist

I think I'd be asking for the locum cost for a full day at both branches. It would incentivise them to sort things out.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Disgusting. 

Jonathan smith, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is true in south wales also. lloyds pharmacy wont pay over £19 per hour. the day before they increase it to £21. If people wont work for that they close the branch on principal. Completely out of touch with pay scales.

 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Then I suppose this is presented as ' evidence ' that there is a shortage of pharmacists so they can get the government to bus in a lot of pharmacists from the third world who are told to be grateful for the £18 an hour they receive.

Careful love your prejudices are on show, nobody has called it the third world since live aid in the 80s.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I do apologise Suplex. (this is what we called it when I was growing up in the 70s but I appreciate your comment on terminology changes), Perhaps 'developing nations' would be a better term? I did some research and found this interesting article. 

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/01/04/372684438/if-you-shouldnt-call-it-the-third-world-what-should-you-call-it?t=1616518143010

 

Yes I think the dichotomy that's PC now is developed and developing world. As with all language it obfuscates as much as it reveals in that the set members can be classified by the beholder...

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

True for many many stores in the north east of England and has been on a daily basis for many months.
No deterrent for them as they are not fined at the moment for breaching their contract. No sense of moral duty or patient care.
Pay rates are the same as 21 years ago when I first qualified.
Utterly abhorrent that locums are bullied to keep their rates rock bottom.

C A, Community pharmacist

Some of my mates just out of uni did locums on the side... for a minimum of £25/hr, and that was 20 odd years ago. So £19/hr is derisory when you think about inflation and cost of living.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Allegedly been happening for some time. There will be no investigation. Will likely be forgotten about by next week. 

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