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Locums accuse Day Lewis of starting rates war

Business Locum pharmacists have accused independent chain Day Lewis of driving a rates war with an online booking system that asks them for their “potential price”.

Day Lewis has defended an online booking system that asks locums to quote their "potential price", after pharmacists accused the independent chain of driving a rates war.

Locums posting on the Locum Voice forum branded Day Lewis's booking system "shameful" and "tantamount to devaluing the profession". Day Lewis rejected the criticism and said that, although locums were asked to submit the potential price they were willing to work for, they were rated on quality not price. Those with the lowest rate were not automatically given the job, it told C+D.   

The booking system, which replaced the chain's paper system this month, sends emails and SMS alerts to registered locums to inform them of regional vacancies. Each locum's entry is based on quality, Day Lewis said, and includes a score rating and feedback from a pharmacy team.

Day Lewis claimed that locums quoting the lowest rate were not automatically given the job

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Day Lewis director and superintendent pharmacist Peter Glover said the system was an automated way to book "high quality locums" at more than 200 pharmacies.

"Contrary to the views of a minority of locums, this system is not a bidding system based on price alone," he told C+D. "The locum with the lowest rate is not automatically given the job. On the contrary, this system rewards locums that are accredited to provide a range of pharmacy services."

The company pays an average of £23 an hour to locums and £30 per hour on occasion, Mr Glover said. "Quality is far more important to us than price."

However, Locum Voice founder Lindsey Gilpin said the system was "driving down prices" rather than driving up standards.

The PDA Union labelled the system a "cynical attempt to capitalise on the locum situation".

"It does not value the role of pharmacy," PDA Union membership services manager Mark Pitt said. "It pits pharmacists against each other and it's quite divisive." Locums should be able to see what the feedback is and challenge it, he added.

However, Croydon LPC secretary Andrew McCoig said Day Lewis was just reflecting the competitive market. "If you are a good locum you have nothing to fear," he said.


How much do locums get paid?

The average locum rate was £23.40 an hour in 2010, dropping to £23.30 in 2011 and falling again to £22.79 per hour in 2012, the C+D Salary Survey revealed.

In December, Lloydspharmacy cut its hourly locum rates to £19 in some areas because of "ongoing pressures on the pharmacy funding model".

Day Lewis offers £23 an hour on average and £30 "on occasion".

What has been your experience of locum pay in the past year?

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farma locum, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I agree with C Farrell..its not about good or bad locums, the rates are going down overall and that is the issue. companies are squeezing the pharmacists to improve their profit you might have read boots made a profit despite fall in can imagine how much profit they made by cutting the rates..You cant say there are no lazy people in other professions..their rates dont go down i am not a locum pharmacist...i do occasional locum work too but i dont take a news paper with me...

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

I qualified as a pharmacist in 1995. At that time there were a whole heap more independents than multiples. The average locum rate was £12-13 per hour (In today's money probably around £22 per hour, adjusting for inflation). What I saw was aggressive market entrants (Multiples) raising locum rates to capture the cream of the pharmacist crop. This led to many independents selling up and being bought by the same multiples.

Now for those who have studied economics this is a form of predatory pricing, where new market players drive the incumbents literally out of the market. Once they achieve their aim and reach market dominance, they flex their muscles and squeeze prices. This is what is happening now.

I am afraid it is the case of the chickens coming home to roost!

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

I would further add, that the behavior of these multiples is, on the whole, destructive to the profession. However, I am afraid, their market dominance means they can get away with it. This will all end in tears, a destroyed profession OWNED by multiples. We will all merely be employees who will be at the whim of our masters! Sad sad times......

sanjai sankar, Locum pharmacist

Not only have rates gone down, but locum "job satisfaction" is at its lowest ebb now and that's not just because of the money...Bullying, being treated like a commodity and being a scape goat for any problems that arise often results in a call to the agency with a "complaint"....They often don't look at the "good" work you may have done during the day...Its a real shame that we are at the mercy of the Corporates now I cant see it changing too much...I am also dabbling with the idea of a career change after 15 years in Pharmacy...

Leon The Apothecary, Student

A majority of locums I have had the pleasure to work with have been real experts of knowledge and customer service. However, they also tell me tales of struggling to find consistant work, and being pressured into lower rates than they would be happy with.

I initially wanted to go to University to do a pharmacy degree. Now ~ I'm looking at other courses instead.

GREGORY TUCKER, Administration & Support

Wise move.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

At least you have first hand insight! I have come across plenty that do not and managed to put one off after telling them to investigate more thoroughly without rose tinted opinion.

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

I've got nearly 20 years' experience and class myself as pretty experienced and good, but got told last month I was getting a 14% pay cut in hourly rate. Just like all the other locums.
I've worked for some companies for over a decade, but at the end of the day, if you start acting like a diva, and being difficult, and digging your heels in, you will be replaced. No matter what you charge. I would not recommend a career in community pharmacy to anyone these days. I remember the days when you were ASKED what you charged, now you are TOLD what to charge!
The more worrying thing though, is when will rates ever increase again? If you have been cut from 23 to 20 or 19, how many years to get BACK to 23, let alone above it? And yet I see people I was at college with, now Drs, earning 60/70hr as locums, etc
The worst bit though, is the rate goes DOWN, but the work goes UP!
If I was 10 to 15 years younger I would do another degree.

Rebecca Dodd, Locum pharmacist

I totally agree, if i had my time again. never pharmacy. They never told you this at university.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I echo those comments like many others. After 20+ years I ask myself where I went wrong. I never regretted my choice of career - just the leaders and politicians we have had in that time.

We are now shunted into a supply and demand equation. As the DoH can turn the screw and treat dispensing services like the supply of cheap commodity, so our remuneration will be forced down under the current funding joke.

It does not matter who you listen to and who you vote for - only price has any consideration. Good old Blighty now has an enormous deficit and we are not a priority on the political landscape, until too late in the day.

Then of course the supply chain will be probably damaged to the extent it can't be recovered.....and still the work load increases with more red tape.

David Lewis, Community pharmacist

Here here. Couldn't agree more. I've not taken a booking from Lloyds since they reduced their rates and mileage allowances. Some would argue that I'm cutting off my nose to spite my face -but - if all locums were to stick to their guns and refuse bookings at lower rates then companies would be forced to pay more. I've been offered a painting and decorating job paying £170 a day. No hassle. No risk of criminal conviction. No travel costs. Looking more attractive every day!!

Dorothy Drury, Community pharmacist

No they wouldn't, there would be more selective recruitment of pharmacists from the EU. We are producing more then enough pharmacists from British Universities but still have about 4,000 EU pharmacists per year if you look at the statistics from the Border Agency Control on movement of regulated professions. The same problem apparently for dentists and vets. There is such high employment in many countries and free movement between the EU.

Underrated Professional, Locum pharmacist

The RPS did us a disservice years ago and we will continue to suffer for years to come.
More members more monies in their coffers. I had a Spanish trained pharmacist come into my store, she needed help to fill in the registration form, her English was very poor.
I helped fill it for her but thought that she would be interviewed at the very least. She returned 2 weeks later with her certificate !! She then begged me for unpaid work since she said ' I know no NHS, the medicines I need to know. I am scared '. SHAME on our
governing bodies. I know of similar pharmacists who are being paid £10 per hour to be the RESPONSIBLE PHARMACIST, but the fluent technician/dispenser is the public speaker. I advise any 18 year would good science A levels to steer clear of Pharmacy.
I wish I had done medicine!

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

There are good locums and bad locums.
A good one will always be called upon even if he/she is not the cheapest.
With the increase in number of pharmacists, at least we don't see 'walking coffins' and the bad ones will have to pull up their socks.

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

I assume -14 is from locums!
I have employed over 100 locums and I have come across bad ones who I would never employ even for free.
For the good ones I am happy to pay over the market rate.
I wonder how many of those 14 come in to work with a newspaper and cup of coffee which they finish before starting work long after opening hours.

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist


I think you are missing the point. Both locum and employed pharmacist salaries are in decline. This article is about a company effectively offering work to the cheapest, lowest bidder.

Clearly as a pharmacist employer this may appeal to you but this devaluing of pharmacists is not doing the profession or pharmacists any good at all.

We should be uniting as pharmacists to protect are reputation and worth as healthcare professionals not attacking 'lazy locums' purely out of self-interest.

L. A., Community pharmacist

...and the profession's continuing spiral down the toilet proceeds ever so steadily.

Being a Pharmacist these days is so worthless that we have to hawk ourselves as cheaply as possible.

Rahim Mawani, Manager

until the govenment starts treating us as a Professional Service sadly we are stuck in a commercially driven sector.

Seeing as we there anything wrong in groups like Day Lewis keeping a tight control on labour costs?

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

"LPC secretary Andrew McCoig said Day Lewis was just reflecting the competitive market. "If you are a good locum you have nothing to fear," he said".

Perhaps he could have expressed the situation more accurately:

“If you are a good locum and THE CHEAPEST you have nothing to fear”.

Jide Opaleke, Locum pharmacist

Can the same argument proposed by Andrew McCoig about locums be used to deregulate control of entry allowing more freedom to open pharmacies to greater competition for the better skilled pharmacists to provide services and greedy contractors employing cheap labour not to continue exploiting the system, the profession and holding pharmacists to ransoms of suppressed and reducing income only to boost their own margins. May probably help the NHS to revalue it's spend and pay pharmacist providers based on professional input and quality outcomes. This will help regrade services according to professionalism and quality not the present lowest cost denominator. The good contractor pharmacist should have nothing to fear against a bad locum hoping to open competition. The same goes for non pharmacist contractors that employ good quality well paid pharmacist with excellent qualities.

Z Rafiq, Community pharmacist

Unfortunately, the rates are just going to go down. With the ever increasing pharmacists entering the arena from home and abroad its just a simple case of supply and demand.

I recently had a conversation with a pharmacist from an eu country who was willing to work for minimum wage, yes you read correctly, minimum wage. One may argue if you pay peanuts you get monkeys but it just shows what the market is like at the moment.

I fear for anyone entering the undergraduate program because within a few years a significant number will have a degree with no pre-reg and pharmacy will become like another profession that has loads of undergraduates but few training places LAW.

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