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Agency CEO: Pharmacy owners are asking to cut locum rates

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My Locum Choice "often barters" on behalf of its locums, CEO Miraj Patel told C+D

Pharmacy owners are looking to reduce locum rates further where possible, according to the chief executive of a locum agency.

Miraj Patel, CEO of My Locum Choice – a pharmacist recruitment agency – said contractors have approached the company asking for advice on how much they could reduce locum pay rates by.

Mr Patel said My Locum Choice is “pragmatic” when responding to pharmacy owners, and will often barter for higher rates on behalf of locums because of the level of training the pharmacists on the company's books have.

But Mr Patel told C+D that locum pay rates have tumbled over the years. The average rate he observed 10 years ago was likely to be in the region of £30/hr, dropping to £22-£23/hr around five to six years ago, he said.

In 2016 the “gold standard” locum rate is now somewhere around £20/hr, he added. Rates have “dropped a lot”, and are unlikely to get higher any time soon, he warned.

Mr Patel spoke to C+D as part of its latest analysis exploring the issues locum pharmacists face, and comes after the C+D Salary Survey 2016 revealed average locum rates crashed from £24/hr in 2008 to £20.50/hr in 2015.

Data from C+D’s Salary Survey 2016, completed between October-December 2015 by 1,292 pharmacists, including 227 locums, also showed:

  • 42% of locums felt they were under pressure from management in 2015
  • 48% of locums said their workload was often unrealistic
  • 41% of all pharmacists said they wanted to leave the profession.

Read the full analysis here, including exclusive statistics from the C+D Salary Survey 2016. 

22 Comments
Question: 
Have you seen a fall in locum rates in recent years?

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

C U Next Tuesday

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

The base salary for a Southern Railways train driver is about £47,000 pa for a 35 hour week. No CPD, no NMS, no MURs, no GPHC etc etc. (probably some dickhead of an area manager but they are everywhere the world over) Why would anyone want to put up with the crap we do for less money? Do train drivers leave uni with a £60,000 loan? Any student reading this who still wants to be a pharmacist must be criminally insane. Oh and by the way it is only going to get worse.

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The commonly used comparison of train drivers is an anomaly. It is a useful example because it uses a job which is considered to require little expertise but demands an unusually high commensurate wage. However, it is a poor example because it is the product of a rare and unlikely to be replicated trade union militancy. Similarly, quoting hourly rates of tradesmen is often not legitimate, they do not end up with 45 hours a week of work at that particular rate when everything is taken into account. 

Compared to most graduates in the U.K., community pharmacists are well paid. This is a relative comparison of course, graduate wages are now so low as to make the pharmacist wage appear impressive. The reality is that many pharmacists thought they were joining the special group of jobs which provides for lifelong employment and high wages. The realisation has set in that community pharmacy has left that group and will never return. Many feel cheated, it was the very reason they applied for pharmacy school in the first place. Some, however, have buried their head in the sand and believe it will all be reversed as if by magic. 

Looking at it objectively, the continual fall in wages ought to be considered obvious, predictable and irreversible. If you work in community pharmacy today, it must be assumed you accept this reality. Other than that, you must be considered Walter Mitty.  

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

I am lucky because I only have a few years to go but if I was starting out I would never do pharmacy and if I was just a few years in I would be getting out. The only people with a Walter Mitty attitude are those that still think pharmacy is a worthwhile profession. Those "in charge" are just slave drivers. I have no illusions that the situation is going to get better as after nearly 40 years my eyes are wide open. I just hope I can put up with all the bullshit until I get out. And as for trade union militancy, how about opticians? They seemed to have maintained a decent living over the years. Maybe it's because their peers are not their enemies. It has not been and will not be the government etc that destroys pharmacy but other pharmacists. Your real enemies are always within your own household.

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

After many decades, the sun is finally setting on my career as a pharmacist also. As much as the current state of affairs appalls me, I don't think it is valid to extrapolate my own negativity to the rest of the profession. The majority of pharmacists I have listened to are fairly indifferent and are only too willing to plod along. Very few pharmacists contribute to forums, virtually nobody gets involved in the PDA trade union and employee manager meetings are nearly always affairs of compliance and docility. From this perspective sub £20/hr rates appear entirely commensurate with the attitudes and behaviours of employees and locums. 

 

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Seems with the downward pressure on poor employees/locums us business owners don't have to put house extensions and car upgrades on hold after all. :-)

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

How is this news? Rates have been falling for ten years against inflation and will continue to fall for what ought to be very obvious reasons. If you want to earn more than £19/hour you will have to find employment in another industry that will pay you that money. Most people won't because they know they won't.  Instead most will remain and pass the time by whinging about it. 

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I'm a locum in the South and I've actually just had a small but nice hourly pay rise. I think it depends on the area of the country you work in, what the demand is in your local area and how much value to add to the contractor thats paying you. You can't blaim contractors for wanting to try and cut their labour costs as thats just basic business logic following the cuts. However, I think contractors have to be careful as they will lose the best locums if you paint everyone with the same brush and make wholesale cuts to rates across the board. The situation in my region at the moment is that a fair amount of multiple and independent employee pharmacists are leaving their posts to take up jobs with the PCT/LHB or with GP surgeries/clusters, care homes etc I also know many community pharmacists (employees and locums) recently embarking on diplomas with a view to training as IPs. Regarding locum rates I think they will remain static in the short term. More pharmacists will leave community pharmacy to work in primary care and gain IP qualifications to enter the private sector; this will increase the demand for locums which will in turn negate the potential decrease in rates the contractors are after (as this article claims). I can only speak from experience in my part of the country and not sure if this can be generalised. It seems to me the government has robbed Peter to pay Paul in the sense it has shifted money from the 'supply' role of community pharmacies to invest in the 'clinical' role of the pharmacist. This is a win for the pharmacists who strive for more professional autonomy, job satisfaction and higher individual wages but very bad news for contractors and multiples as profits tumble. There will always be a need for community pharmacies at least in the sense they act as a convinient hub to pick up medicines- and there is no reason why theses cant be run by ACTs and experienced techs with enough training. However, the role of the pharmacists is evolving. It is no longer a 3 year chemistry degree and we are not manufacturing creams/ointments in the back of the shop. It will soon be a 5 year degree with a ever increasing emphasis on clinical pharmacy, independent prescribing. We are not doctors and we do not claim to have their level of diagnostic skills. However, we are experts in medicines and their usuage in managing and preventing disease. I've massively digressed here. In short, locum rates to remain stagnant. I will fight for higher rates. Contractors and multiples will continue to protect their profits by cheekily loooking to lower rates of employees/locums. I wonder if the contractors are lowering the rates of their employees as much as locums?

Dave Downham, Manager

Looking at other employees, I would opine that many contractors will be forced to increase the rates for "lower" qualified staff due to upward pressure from national living wage. E.g. many drivers, counter assistants etc  will be at or close to the NLW and so will see their rates pushed higher, hence the perceived premium for professionals like locums will be further eroded.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

National Living Wage will continue to increase with time whilst locum (or even employee) pharmacist salaries will stagnate or fall. 

Only a matter of time before some Pharmacists are on NLW.

 

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

If the locum rates go any lower--a lot of  potential pharmacy students will now not  enter the"profession"--leading to closure of unwanted schools of pharmacy--it may take some years to to establish a suitable equilibrium but it may be a blessing in disguise.

This will filter through to all levels--so everyone should be careful what they wish for.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Yes. Why on earth, if you are a 6th former reading this as 'research' would you put yourself through 5 very long hard years to earn less money to start with, than if you were the deputy manager at a Lidl? (circa 28k apparently)

M Yang, Community pharmacist

Another term might be malthusian limit, something I've always believed would happen if things get to a bad enough level. Enough people leave day to day community practice, either through retirement or moving into clinical/surgery roles. Fewer people want to study Pharmacy once it becomes common knowledge that Pharmacy school is no longer the path to an iron clad job. In time, this creates a shortage that sees independent contractors and multiples needing to raise their rates to attract locums.

James Hesp, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

It is not fair for pharmacy businesses to keep absorbing the hits. This was bound to happen.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

No payrise for 8 years, Mr Contractor! What has been the increase in the global sum and your profit since 2008? I think locums have 'absorbed' enough. Thank you very much! 

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

Then why are pharmacy prices so artificially high?

Dave Downham, Manager

They aren't - they reflect the market and there's a load of business savvy locums who are saying sod this, I might as well buy a business and work hard at it rather than slogging my guts out for "the man" for less and less.

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

All I can assume,apart from the obvious ,is that net profitability must be higher than it was in my time as an owner-pharmacist---is that correct??

Sam Patel, Community pharmacist

I agree, profit is a lot higher and hence goodwill is higher.

P M, Community pharmacist

why do u think?

 

P M, Community pharmacist

a lot lower to go yet i think once the cuts really kick in belts are going to be tightened.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

PM, Bet you're loving it though......

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