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