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Underfunded contract stops owners paying locums the going rate

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Underfunded contract stops owners paying locums the going rate

By Neil Trainis

National Pharmacy Association vice-chair Nick Kaye has said that while locums should be paid the rates they ask for, owners are not in a position to meet their demands because of a community pharmacy contract that is “fundamentally underfunded".

Writing exclusively in a personal capacity for Independent Community Pharmacist, Mr Kaye claimed some of the locums he normally employs have increased their rates while those he has never used before are “more expensive". Consequently, he said it felt “harder” to book locums than in the past.

There has been heated debate in recent weeks over whether rate disputes or workforce shortages have been behind the rise in temporary pharmacy closures over the past two years.

Although Mr Kaye pointed to rising locum rates, he was not critical of locums but said the issue was a lack of funding that, if addressed, would allow pharmacists to meet their rates.

He also said he thought there was a shortage of pharmacists in community pharmacy.

“Much has been written already on this matter and the strain it can cause on the provision of health to our patients. Practising as I do in the far south-west of the country, it does generally feel harder to book locums than it has been historically – and I know this is an issue elsewhere too,” he said. 

“For the business in Cornwall where I am a director, we use a number of regular locums and they have put their prices up and some of the newer locums to us are more expensive. Of course, I accept that we have to pay our locums the going rate and we value their professionalism and skill.

“The issue for owners is that the community pharmacy contract in England has not improved and right now it is fundamentally underfunded.”

Mr Kaye said he hoped locum rates as well as pay scales across the NHS were being taken into consideration during the PSNC’s contractual negotiations with the government. Both parties have been engaged in talks on the fourth year of the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework.

“My belief is that we should be looking at locum rates and the NHS-managed sector bandings to build into contract negotiations to improve the funding quantum and if that increases by retaining dispensing and growing clinical services, then community pharmacy will be the place where people want to practice,” Mr Kaye said.

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison recently told ICP that the negotiator had been contacted by contractors “of all sizes” concerned about the availability of pharmacists and “rapidly inflating locum rates".

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