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Locums will not have to source own PPE for shifts, Rowlands clarifies

Emails apparently sent from the company said PPE would not be provided to locums
Emails apparently sent from the company said PPE would not be provided to locums

Rowlands has clarified it will not be asking locums to source their own PPE or risk having future shifts cancelled following emails appearing to show this was the case.

Last week (June 5) screenshots of emails apparently sent by Rowlands that said locums were required to source their own PPE were shared by pharmacists on social media.

One of the emails – under a heading addressing “all locums” – said that “Rowlands do not provide PPE”.

The email added that it was “mandatory that PPE is worn when social distancing cannot be adhered to” and that, should locum pharmacists arrive for bookings without PPE, it would “result in future bookings being cancelled”.

The message sparked outrage on social media. One pharmacist on Twitter commented: "That is way out of line. I am sure the patients who use this pharmacy would see this as appalling."

Another said: "This is shocking. Surely they have a duty to look after staff under HSE guidance."

Rowlands told C+D yesterday (June 8) that there had been some "confusion" over its stance. “All colleagues working in our pharmacies – which of course includes locums - have full access to PPE in line with Government and regulatory advice," a spokesperson said.

Further messages

A part-time locum who wishes to remain anonymous claimed to C+D last week (June 5) that Rowlands had sent “multiple emails” on Friday that contained the same message as the one shared on Twitter.

"If a Rowlands Pharmacy regular pharmacist was on duty the day the locum was then they would be using PPE instead so what’s the difference in a locum using it," they asked.

A second email apparently sent by the company, also shared in screenshots on social media last week, said that “locum pharmacists should provide their own PPE whilst working for Rowlands Pharmacy as per the locum agreement”.

Clarifying communications

Another email seen by C+D that appears to have been sent on behalf of Rowlands managing director Mark Bather last week (June 6) said the multiple had received “significant feedback and requests for clarification about its “recent note on PPE”. The email said the multiple had subsequently “reviewed our policy” and would “amend with immediate effect”.

The email offered Mr Bather's “sincere apologies for the issues caused” and added that Rowlands would “continue to work with our locums to ensure, where possible, we are able to provide face masks, hand sanitiser, gloves and gowns”.

“Significant feedback”

Rowlands told C+D yesterday (June 8) that it had addressed any "confusion" over the issue by making it clear to locums that they will be given PPE when working for Rowlands.

The spokesperson added that Rowlands has "clarified the policy and communication in light of feedback received”.

“Over the last few days, we informed locum colleagues that we will make PPE available to them. We will amend the contract accordingly, but right now our approach is clear: if PPE is required, it will be provided,” they said.

What do you make of Rowlands's policy change?

Shahan Mir, Community pharmacist

This clearly shows that with the advent of social media and the speed in which a story can become viral, employers can no longer sneak clauses into a contract for a locum/employee. Well done to the TPC and its network for identifying this and escalating it so quickly.

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

Their response''CONFUSION''. Who are they kidding! 

Rowlands are renowned for treating the locums like a piece of meat. They have no respect for them or their views.

 Most of their staff and area managers are well trained in denying the truth and being honest doesnt work with them. One of the worse company to work for. 

If you're a pathological liar, without values then you are their ideal candidate. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I have also had bad experiences with Rowlands before, in particular, paying my invoices.

Locum Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I agree. I have experienced this with Rowlands, bad staff and management

Pharm Druggist, Community pharmacist

I think it would be good practice for locums to be in posession of their own face masks, in case of a situation where a pharmacy has ran out. I must say I'd expect pharmacies to be providing face masks to their own employed staff as well as to locums. I have locumed in the past and we differ from other self employed professionals by not really needing to bring along any equipment, aside from our brains, so i can understand where this expectation of the 'employer' providing PPE comes from. Is it a correct expectation? Haven't made my mind up but I think pharmacies should provide as a courtesy.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

You make a very valid point about it being good practice regarding face masks, particularly if they are of the reusable variety. However, I would also argue that the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a legal responsibility on employers to ensure that the correct equipment is in place to allow a worker to work safety.

On this point, I feel courtesy is better served as obligated. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Rowlands caught bang to rights, in black and white. But still do not have the decency to admit it. 

Amitpal Singh, Community pharmacist


Hi. Quick question. 
how does this decision affect IR35 (coming in next April).

The parameters states that self-employed individuals must bring their own equipment.

If the company is providing us with this equipment, will we not put yourself at risk of being considered within IR35?



cardiff pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Either you are a self employed locum- bring your own PPE, or you are an employee and the employer will provide. Locums cannot have it both ways - and this is why HMRC are targeting this- you dont need to wait until April for this to effect your employment status.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

I will bring my own thank you

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Yes, but how far do you go? Do we have to bring our own pens, computers, labels, what? Employers can't have it both ways either.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I really REALLY hope by next April to not be doing this any more, so, rather selfishly and callously, I don't care. Sorry.

Probably will though. You won't be so much as able to borrow a pen on site.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

At least you're honest.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Locums have always been seen as a bit inferior - I've locumed on and off for twenty-odd years and still get the 'why haven't you got a proper job?' comments. Pharmacy multiples need to realise that without locums, they cease to function. Stop treating us like scum (yes I know my title is Superintendent but that's what I used to be and I can't be arsed to change it) because you NEED us.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'm with you here, the times I've got beyond to be patient-centric and had pushback with phrases such as, "You're only a locum", certainly hits a point.

Daneil Kumar, Locum pharmacist

I can not imagine any other job get treated as bad as a pharmacist. I was worse decision of my life to became a pharmacist. 

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I was feeling the same way for 12 years until moved into industry.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Considering the various environment a pharmacist can work in, I would be surprised if community does not rank the worst.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Be surprised!

*****got this comment wrong - I got my negatives in a twist - you're saying 'community is the worst'! Be NOT surprised*****

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Jeez, tell me about it. Regret it everyday! 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Ditto. Finally decided to get out after thirty years - I've simply had enough crap.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

After 12 years here, I went back to University. I have placed myself in a great position as the "Person who can cook, as long as you provide ingredients." 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I wish I could do that but I'm too long in the tooth and too much financial baggage to afford it.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

You got caught Rowlands. Suck it up.

Pear Tree, Community pharmacist

Abuse of language must stop. Since when has reversal of callous decision become synonymous with clarification? You got found out. Admit your mistake, apologize and move on. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

If you call them out as liars,however, it is seen as a problem. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Sounds like a day at Parliament! 

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Although I disagree with a lot about the social media group being referred to, I do agree that their work in highlighting issues like this is fantastic. Well done!

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