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‘Pharmacy locums deserve higher rates of pay’

“Locums are risking the health of themselves and loved ones”

Locums should be allowed to negotiate higher hourly rates of pay because of the pressures of COVID-19, says locum Shahir Afser

I have been a locum community pharmacist for much of my 10-year career. As reported in C+D,  rates have taken a nosedive over the past decade.  

New universities are starting to offer the pharmacy degree and churn out pharmacists. In addition to this, some pharmacists who are willing to accept very low, disrespectful and frankly absurd rates have irreversibly damaged our profession. These include young pharmacists, who need to gain experience – although you can’t really blame them for that. There is also a saturation of pharmacists, especially in London.

As the general public has become more disrespectful, rude, and demanding, our jobs have become less manageable and enjoyable than they used to be. Only now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic do you hear of how disrespectful patients can be, and how pharmacy teams have faced abuse. The harsh reality is that abuse is a daily occurrence for community pharmacists.

I absolutely agree that locums should try and negotiate a slightly higher rate during COVID-19. Even if they are successful, once this has all blown over the rates will plummet back down to normal.

Locums are more than deserving of slightly higher rates, when considering the new risk of being on the front line as the most accessible healthcare professionals advising possible COVID-19 patients. They’re also risking the health of themselves and loved ones, often having to deal with over 200 patients a day, abuse, medicine shortages and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unfortunately our profession has been overlooked, taken for granted and treated very poorly for a long time.

The overlooking of pharmacy teams has never been more evident. We don’t have a government or representative body that I feel properly champions us. However, the former vehemently promotes that patients should go to the pharmacist first for everything, while asking us pharmacists to do more services with depleted budgets to free up time for other healthcare professionals. What about a pharmacist’s time and sanity?

These added pressures and squeezed budgets are leading some large multiples to also act appallingly to staff. In my experience, they have not increased any locum rates since the outbreak, and stick to their normal rates with no negotiation. It has also come to light that some locums have been threatened with being reported to the General Pharmaceutical Council if they attempt to ask for a different rate.

Some locums who have asked politely about increasing their rates on certain social media platforms have been shot down by some of their peers and made to feel like villains for even suggesting a slight rate increase. I am disgusted by this. This subservient attitude encouraged by this behaviour facilitates the overlooking of pharmacists, which has not and will not get us anywhere.

If we do not respect ourselves, other health professionals will see us as a joke. I don't feel that our own representative bodies stick up for us and the government doesn't value us, so where is this profession to go? Why should pharmacists be so willing to help on this frontline with no incentive and no acknowledgement?

If there are no pharmacists, there will be no medication.

Shahir Afser is a locum pharmacist based in Essex.

65 Comments

Ashok Pandya, Community pharmacist

unity we require and lets threat the govt  with strikes after all this hard work during the pendemic all together one say

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Go on then, you start! Cancel all your shifts and see who else follows

R A, Community pharmacist

Hi Shahir, 

Two things:

1. Pharmacists in general have been underpaid for a very long time especially if wages were meant to be matched with inflation. 

2. Thanks to the haphazard response of the goverment to the situation we face a severe economic depression so the idea of any uplift is just a wishful thinking. Especially when many people will be out of jobs.

My advice to anyone who is in the position to do so is start saving your money and plan a exit. 

Seal Patel, Community pharmacist

Just had email from a Llyods coordinator stating

"Hi,
The below shifts need cover for NEXT WEEK. Please advise if you can work any ASAP. Rates requested above £19ph ONLY will NOT be considered."

Guess there are pharmacists taking these shifts in desperate times. But £19 in this time of age and circumstances is shameful and somewhat embarrassing

Shahir Afser, Community pharmacist

Exactly what I was getting at. Shocking. Thank you for sharing! 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

C&D have to investigate surely. Is the editor isolating or furloughed? That sort of behaviour hass gone on for a very long time.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

If C&D had any real journalists they would investigate how the multiples in possible cahoots with GPhC have purposely suppressed wages for a number of years. I wonder if the new editor is brave enough ?

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

This issue is not about being brave. The issue is about complicity.

Linda Victoria, Community pharmacist

I think the headline is totally wrong, it should say all pharmacists deserve a higher rate of pay as is not just locum that risks their lives working, all pharmacists are risking their lives working in the pharmacy. Morrisons and Tesco workers get extra pay while working during Covid but what about us? I hope PDA do something with the pay of all pharmacists during Covid.

Shahir Afser, Community pharmacist

I don't think you can really say the title is "completely wrong" as you proceed to mostly agree with it. I was only writing about MY current thoughts as a Locum, but agree that it should apply to all. I'm not in a position to write an umberella statement for all pharmacy professionals, ACT's, dispensers, cleaners, delivery drivers etc.... not that I don't feel they are also deserving. 

Daneil Kumar, Locum pharmacist

When I asked for £25/h for emergency cover. All my shifts got cancelled. I decided would not book any work untill the situation improve. I think this is best thing happend to me. Within a month I learnt new skill and already start earning more than I used to as a pharmacist. Mr Rudkin made it clear to the multiples how much my contribution to the society as a pharmacist was worth it. 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

May we enquire politely as to your new skill and new career?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Many pharmacist seem to be selfish by nature for some reason. It could also be an outright lie.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Good on you. I'm glad hearing stories of people quitting complaining, having standards, having self respect and doing something else. It's the only answer to end the nightmare. I never looked back and nor will you.

C A, Community pharmacist

What are you doing with yourself now Daneil? Asking for a friend...

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

So am I......

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I notice a lot of people are 'asking for a friend' these days.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I was joking. I'm asking for me because I AM GETTING OUT ASAP

C A, Community pharmacist

£25/h? That wasn't even a good emergency rate when I qualified 15 years ago, and you know inflation is a thing!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

The simple truth is that all in the pharmacy team deserve to be better paid in general, and without any pandemic situation. The bat flu has only underlined and exposed the financial faultlines, particularly in the community sector.

The fact that support staff are better off financially working in a supermarket is galling. The care sector is teetering on the brink of crisis. The GPs would go private before ever getting near such a professional degradation.

This administration is fortunate they have failed to drive significant numbers of pharmacies out of business before COVID-19 descended.

The public is fast asleep. They could not care less if Amazon delivers medicines. They will still be out anyway. The Thursday night routine has gone from genuine thanks to a mindless Pavlovian stimulus. An open pharmacy has prevented panic and anxiety (of a closed surgery) boiling over into anger and dissent elsewhere.

I have no doubt it has had an effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of everyone who has worked over the last several weeks.

However, I seriously doubt it will change the trajectory of centralised dispensary and the plot to bring remote supervision in some form. Good luck to everyone battling away. I am afraid it will be much more of the same...

C A, Community pharmacist

Another point that rarely gets mentioned is that if they had paid better the funding cut wouldn't have happened because they wouldn't have been making too much money in terms of "15%" margin

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Having re-read the article I missed the final line

'if there are no pharmcists, there is no medication'

Please please wake up community pharmacists. Whilst legally this maybe true at the moment look at the warning signs and please don't think that this sort of comment will give any sort of respect or acknowledgement to the profession.

Remote supervision will clear out pharmacist locums at an instant without a second thought and it's around the corner. Any employed managers who are pharmacists might get a chance. The multiples and small chains cannot wait for remote supervision to allow one pharmacist to 'supervise' several pharmacies at once. They will not care how good you are and how long you've worked for them.

mark my words

Shahir Afser, Community pharmacist

I'm under no illusion over where the future of community pharmacy is going and agree with your thoughts. Mine was a comment for this moment in time/current struggle, which you acknowledged so thank you for your comment. 

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

No, thank you for your article. Clealy it was written at the back of a bad spell, possibly at the end of a horrendous shift. I felt your frustration and disillusionment.

I hope pharmacists read this but react more than just a sympathetic sign of 'me too, I've had a crap day too'. But rather they looked up, communicated and questioned where we're going with all this.

 

 

 

 

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I must admit I spat out my iced coffee when I read that last line in the article. Delusion of grandeur.

Shahir Afser, Community pharmacist

I shall respond to this once I have finished my supper of pan fried duck breast with a side of chicory and potato Dauphinois. Chin chin... 

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I like your taste in food, I must say. I can cook a tremendous Gressingham duck breast, using a canard à l'orange receipe. Dupuhoise is lovely using Greyere.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

That sounded so middle class!! Industry must be way better than community. I spat out my brew.....

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Said it many times and in many places - pharmacists are merely one changed piece of legislation away from extinction. Our role has been eroded away over the last several years to the point where the end is now looming. Even remote supervision will eventually be deemed un-necessary and ACTs will rule the world!

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Exactly, it annoys me the way a lot of community pharmacist are very unaware of this. Some are just so engrossed in their busy pharmacies as part of their team (mainly the manager of course) drowning under the pressures that they don't realise their role will be swept away. The higher managers are like vultures waiting for the legislation to come into place. It irritates me because many are genuine hardworking and caring people. But it irritates me even more that these are passively arrogant people who feel as though their masters in pharmacy degree means there's a job for life and they're important and needed........when soon they really won't be......and it's not their fault. It's frustrating to hear locums ranting on and on about the rates and how it should be 25/hr min and shouldn't go below 21/hr etc etc (cursing the co-ordinator).........when in fact..........there will be no locum shift, let alone a shift at 18/hr.

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