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'Why the average UK locum pharmacist rate is worse than you think'

"A locum doesn’t have many of the benefits afforded to employed pharmacists"

Locum Liam Maguire reflects on the C+D Salary Survey 2017’s findings on locum pay rates, and what this means for the sector’s future

Locum rates have decreased markedly over the past 10 years, and it seems to me that they will continue to drop – spurred on by the cuts to pharmacy funding payments in England that were made at the end of 2016.

When many factors are taken into account – which would not be applicable to full-time employed pharmacists – the average UK locum rate of £20.84-per-hour looks pretty bare. A locum doesn’t have many of the benefits afforded to employed pharmacists, such as holiday or sick pay. In addition, there is no mandatory employer’s contribution to National Insurance, nor pension contributions by an employer.

Personally, I have worked for pharmacy owners who prefer to employ pharmacists on a self-employed basis. They have realised they can avoid these additional payments, while simultaneously dropping below their offered locum rate, because they assure the locum that they can guarantee them full-time work.

Other factors to be taken into account are mileage, car insurance and maintenance, fuel, parking charges, indemnity insurance and General Pharmaceutical Council membership fees – the list goes on.

In my experience, mileage is not paid by a lot of pharmacies, other than on an emergency basis. For the vast majority of the big chains, it’s a low figure that doesn’t even cover fuel – let alone wear and tear on the car. For example, one chain has a mileage rate of £0.28-per-mile, and it will only offer this after a 40-mile round trip, up to a maximum of 100 miles. This means locums may never see reimbursement for their journey to and from work.

For locums without cars, public transport costs have to be factored in, which can present a different – yet potentially significant – financial outlay.

After these work-related costs are considered, the standard locum rates start to look very bare indeed.

In the majority of pharmacies, locums are still expected to push services such as medicines use reviews, the new medicine service or flu jabs. This is to help the store achieve its own targets, yet there are often no incentives offered to the locum – other than the promise of work.

This is further aggravated by many chains pressuring locums to pay for their own flu vaccination training – with no hope of reimbursement – to help them reach the business’s own store targets. This does not seem to provide any tangible benefit to the locum.

From my perspective, locuming will soon lose any perceived benefit as a career and is looking increasingly unattractive as a viable means of making a living.

Liam Maguire is a locum based in Southampton

See the full regional breakdown of average hourly locum pay rates in C+D’s interactive map here


, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Having worked as a dispenser in both hospitals and community pharmacy (including with the author, Liam Maguire), locums often are a bad bet for the rest of the staff (not always, but sometimes). Many turn up late, one even disappeared many times throughout the day and despite being the RP, totally leaving the premises without letting anyone know. And even then sometimes (again, not always or everyone!) the locum seems to do the very bare minimum of work, especially if they think it's not likely they will be returning to that store. In hospital the locums are either repeats or longterm so it is in their best interest to do a good job and to get to know the department/ward rather than having the mentality that they won't be back they don't need to make too good of an impression.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I think the ability to choose when to work is perhaps one of the few tangible benefits of being a locum these days. However, I think the best days for this option are drawing to a close. I expect more increases this year at the fuel pumps, and many do not wish to reimburse due to surplus numbers. If you have doubts, either consider a permanent placement (and the understaffing and other issues...) or leave for new pastures. You might enjoy a new challenge. There will be too many locums in the future fishing at the same pond, and they will backstab for the right to work in terrible conditions. Why stain your reputation for this?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Sounds about right. Pharmacists changing beds and serving tea. is the pay better than managing a multiple? if so they should be inundated. More money and more respect, sounds like a winner !!

Tracey graham, Community pharmacist

I worked as a locum for many years.Key is to have a good accountant.I have to say that i found locumming a far easier job than being an employee.far less pressure.

Cathy Cooke, Hospital pharmacist

Companies can’t use locums on a regular basis to avoid employer contributions as this can be considered employee status depending on the arrangement.

Myke Kofi, Locum pharmacist

I would like to know whether anyone else has had the unfortunate experience of having money deducted for being 15 minutes late to a locum shift - through no obvious fault of my own.  

To cut a long story short, I was on my way to Superdrug pharmacy in Tunstall on Monday 20th March 2017. I boarded a train at Birmingham New Street at 07:31am and arrived at Stoke-on-Trent station at 08.20am. I promptly boarded a bus outside the station to the city's Hanley bus station. Here, I was waiting for the number W3 bus forTunstall at approx 0835am. Without any announcement or explanation, the bus scheduled for 0843am literally disappeared from the "departures" screen. I have made this journey many times for many years without a setback like this. 

So I promptly telephoned the company locum coordinator to explain my situation and to keep the pharmacy staff and customers informed. Eventually the bus I needed for the last leg of  my "outward bound" journey turned up. [In fact two W3 buses and would you believe it, I got on the first one but it departed 2nd] 

 It was a huge relief as duly signed on as Responsible Pharmacist at 09:15am and on checking the morning priorties with the very experienced dispenser,  I got busy preparing the two daily methdaone Rx (which were usually collected at mid-day or later in the day). 

Now imagine my complete surprise when on checking my remittance ten days later that the usual locum rate had been deducted by 15minutes of time. 

Any advice on how I could resolve this unfair deduction is still keenly appreciated.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

invest in a car and leave earlier 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I don't think you have a strong case Michael, you failed to turn up at the contracted time, unless your contract with Superdrug stipulates you can be late. 

Myke Kofi, Locum pharmacist

I appreciate your feedback Johhny, although I disagree with you. At least I showed up.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Are you using your real name? Worked in the Dudley area? I booked you a few times, about 10 years ago?

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

Hello Johnny, long time no write. But yes, pharmacy's a relatively small universe. 

janet revers, Community pharmacist

A lot in this article is true. However it is more nuanced than that. There are certain tax benefits that can come from being self employed  especially if a limited company. This is precisely because locums do not get the same returns. Many expenses are allowed and are tax deductable. Also there is a 45ppm business mileage that is  deducted from profits before taxation. Saying that the pension contributions from employes is helpful

C A, Community pharmacist

Having previously locumed as a sole trader (rather than Ltd company) you are better off getting paid the milage than claiming it as an expense - 

If you work 100 days and travel 20 miles daily for locuming and get paid travel expenses you will be about £540/yr better off than not getting paid and claiming milage allowance relief from the HMRC.

If you do very high milage I can only imagine it being even more significant, as milage allowance relief drops to 25p after 10,000 miles.

I would have thought most other expenses would have overlapped regardless of trader status - though I haven't got experience in being a limited company.

janet revers, Community pharmacist

Correct me if I am wrong and I will check with my accountant but I have been told the mileage given by the contractor is simply gross taxable income and it is still possible to claim 45ppm as well. It is just part of your salary


Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

When I qualified in 1979, locuming was a realistic career path, pharmacists were a Home Office recognised 'skill shortage'. We all know who are to blame, especially when certain sections of the community looked at pharmacy as a gravy train and spoilt it all in the process. The answer is to manage entrants numbers to the register and close all the new and under-performing schools of pharmacy. The GPhC should make re-validation like sitting the pre-reg exam, those who fail should fall off the register.

E simon, Community pharmacist

I value the freedom to choose my working week as a locum: no-one tells me I can't have time off between Xmas and New year, or that I can't take the whole of July and august off. If I don't like the staff, I simply don't accept bookings for that pharmacy any more. I do get paid mileage, and it does cover my costs (but maybe only because I have a small, old car!), Whereas if I was an employee, I wouldn't get anything for travelling to and from home. I believe I have a greater professional integrity precisely because I am NOT on the payroll of a large multiple!

All in all, I have weighed out the pros and cons, and I'm sticking to being a self-employed locum!

Milan Amin, Superintendent Pharmacist

My advice to you Liam, is that if you can read and write English then you would be better off out of this useless, monotonous pill counting profession that nobody in this country feels gratitude towards.

, Superintendent Pharmacist

Surley pharmcists knew this before undertaking a degree. They could earn more money being a plumber. As I said, only a "mug" does a pharmacy degree and they get paid peanuts. Leave and join a real profession.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

"From my perspective, locuming will soon lose any perceived benefit as a career and is looking increasingly unattractive as a viable means of making a living".

Erm, finally you are seeing sense. If the NHS had any sense it would be enrolling thousands of pharmacists to training them to work in A&E, walk-in-centres, ambulance crews, wards. Not as pharmacists but as trainee physician associates.

Good luck with your career Liam. See the move to something else as a positive thing and future-proofing.

Ivor Hadenuff, Primary care pharmacist

Seems to suggest that pharmacists and physios will be there to change beds!

"Ms Smith said: "We have got a scenario where we have 500 vacancies and that is likely to grow."

She added: "We have to make sure patients get the right care. Some of my nurses are doing tasks they don't need to do, they are cleaning bed spaces and giving out cups of tea, things other people can be trained to do.

"It might be that we replace a nurse with a pharmacist or a physio, I don't know yet. It depends on the level of care and the type of wards they are on."

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