The group also raised concerns around an alleged lack of support for locum staff and claimed workplace pressures have resulted from the pay cut.
In response to the allegations, a Tesco spokesperson told C+D today: “We work hard to support our locum pharmacists, and colleagues are on hand to provide help when needed.”
Regarding its locum rates, a Tesco spokesperson told C+D last week: “We remain committed to offering hourly rates which are competitive within the industry.”
As the group prepares for a two-week boycott of the supermarket in September, C+D has decided to print One Voice Pharmacy group’s latest letter to Mr Raffaitin in full.
Date: August 11, 2016
Dear Mark Raffaitin,
We would like to thank you for taking the time out to respond to our letter. We have shared this amongst pharmacists within our forums and the overwhelming feedback we have received – particularly locum community pharmacists – is that they are yet to see a [competitor's] rate of around £18 per hour.
You mentioned that the market had been analysed and the new rates fall in line with your competitors. Would you be able to share the market research and the results you obtained? Other supermarkets are paying a much higher rate and we, the locum pharmacists, fail to see how your rate is competitive. You, as a fellow pharmacist, are able to relate to the responsibility we uphold and can appreciate the work contribution towards the effective and safe running of the pharmacy. Would you work for £18 an hour?
More experienced locum pharmacists are able to book regular work for £20+ for their services. However, it is unfortunate and undeserving for the hard working locum pharmacists who have been loyal to Tesco and are familiar with the systems to undergo a pay cut. Multiples such as yourself should recognise the loyalty and appreciate the time and effort many locum pharmacists put into their shift at Tesco. Unfortunately, due to the decision made, [the] majority of these faithful locum pharmacists now feel forced to look elsewhere for work where better rates are offered; and places where their contributions and skills are recognised and valued.
Furthermore, locum pharmacists have also highlighted that the workload in relation to staffing levels in certain pharmacies leave pharmacists vulnerable to making errors. Locum pharmacists have reported to One Voice that there have been many occasions where they have not had any support staff and have been forced to self-check their work. This vulnerability within the profession, as we are sure you can agree, can lead to, and has already led to, patient harm – having a detrimental effect not only [on] the pharmacist themselves, but [on] the profession and the trust patients have in Tesco pharmacy.
In addition to providing essential services, pharmacists now feel pressurised more than ever to conduct more medicines use reviews and new medicine service [interactions] in order to improve on the [pay] rate that has been brought in by Tesco. This kind of an environment is leading to pressures in the workplace and is unacceptable. The services offered by pharmacists should be purely based on patient care, as it is why we are in this profession; and not be treated as an incentive. These kind of working pressures [across the sector] have already been highlighted in a negative light by various publications, and also have been brought to the attention of the General Pharmaceutical Council and relevant bodies.
We would like to stress again that the pay cut you have proposed does not reflect the value of a pharmacist. Although you have stated that the rate is variable, we would like to remind you that the majority of pharmacists who locum for you add value, increase loyalty and build trust with patients. Where else is a patient able to come in for quick and reliable advice for a range of ailments; be it for travel advice or for a cough and cold? We are the only people who patients do not need to make an appointment to see. We have the most extensive knowledge in relation to drugs, and we are often either the first or last people your patients will see. In these quick and easy consultations, pharmacists not only signpost patients to the right treatment or service, but look for red-flag symptoms and refer. They offer advice on a vast range of lifestyle issues; they allow patients to take an active part in looking after their health and, most of all, they are trusted by your patients.
Pharmacists are at the frontline of primary healthcare and they help to enable patients to build a positive and trusting relationship with the company. We all carry out the same work, but everyone has a different approach and that is what makes this profession so diverse. Keeping this in mind, it is important to note that having regular faces at the chemist also instils trust in your patients.
The regular locums who have worked for Tesco have demonstrated that they are valuable assets to your business. They have helped secure and sign up patients for their regular repeat medication by building a professional relationship with the patients. This means customers will want to come to their Tesco [branch] at least once a month for their medicines as well as their shopping, thus getting a well-rounded experience, and bringing in regular custom for Tesco.
We urge you to not fall into the trap of other multiples, whom have lost respect for their pharmacists and reconsider the reduction in the locum rate. We would also like you to please look into the staffing issues within your branches that many locums have reported. It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions, but hard to get one single remedy.
One Voice Pharmacy
By Pharmacists. For Pharmacists