A statement issued by General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin earlier this month (March 19) warned pharmacy professionals against “profiteering to take selfish advantage” of the COVID-19 outbreak, either with “prices of shortage products or locum rates”.
Doing so “risks bringing the profession into disrepute at a time when public confidence generally is so fragile and so important”, Mr Rudkin said.
In a response published yesterday (March 30), the PDA said it “understands the sentiments” of the regulator as vastly inflated locum rates during the pandemic could “undermine wider public confidence in the profession”. However, the GPhC has “no other legitimate regulatory interest in the commercial rates agreed between locums and their clients”, the organisation added.
“To refer a locum to the GPhC for simply negotiating a higher hourly rate would be an absurdity and an abuse of the regulatory system,” The PDA said.
Community pharmacy locum rates must be “individually negotiated” between the locum and the client or through a locum agency, something that is an “important element of a free market arrangement”, the PDA said.
“It is unlawful for employers acting together, or by conspiring with a locum agency, to seek to manipulate market rates and inhibit free market conditions,” it added.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has “extensive enforcement powers” when it comes to any individual or comapny that behaves in this way, the PDA said.
The PDA highlighted that the same anti-competition rules that apply to businesses also apply to locum pharmacists too
Although negotiating rates is part of the supply and demand model in a free market economy, locums who “discuss how they might seek to fix a minimum market rate”, boycott pharmacies or “are seen to encourage others to take advantage of the pandemic situation” risk CMA sanctions, the PDA said.
The organisation said it will defend locum members who “act responsibly” against regulatory or other complaints