Summer is nearly coming which is often the peak period for most locum pharmacists around the country. Here are some of the reported tactics as well as feedback from the Pharmacy Revu data that certain rota managers and agencies may use to convince locums that work is sparse. So please be mindful of any potential unethical behaviour.

After you offer a higher, reasonable and your desired rate:

• They will tell you it’s already booked when actually it’s not and you get the same email for that exact same shift the very next day.

• If you give them your availability in advance and ask for higher rates during the peak summer months, they will remove shifts from your emails on your free days to make you feel like there is lack of work and force you to accept what they have to offer and at lower rates at that.

• They will tell you shifts are booked at standard rate when it’s actually not and quite often you get the same shifts sent over and over again with few days gaps

• They will cancel your shifts after finding someone cheaper in order to ‘teach you a lesson’ and discipline you.

• They don’t reply to you in order to see if someone will offer them lower rates all day or even next day.

• They will try to book you on reduced rates in advance, especially during the peak summer periods or religious festivities.

Remember make a space for yourself and everyone else to be able to negotiate nearer the time. Do try to negotiate and offer your rate. Once you make an offer stick with it. If you give in they will know it and they will keep trying to make you give in for lower and lower rates. If you negotiate and don’t give in after some time, you will start getting higher rates from them. Some of us do get very good rates even during the off-peak winter periods.

Once you have booked your locum shift, do NOT ever cancel that shift if you find another shift on the same day with higher rates. This is known as professional misconduct and unethical behaviour, for which you will be, rightly, reported to the GPhC. Your reputation and livelihood will then be at stake as well as your professional integrity so once you’ve made a commitment when booking a locum shift, always honour the booking unless of course you have mitigating circumstances such as falling ill or sudden bereavement etc.

Remember if you are a newly-qualified pharmacist, you’re GPhC number tells them that you are newly qualified and they will work hard to control your rates and ensure you don’t reach higher rates. They will make you feel there is not much available on better rates.

Agencies manage to keep themselves going whilst managing to drive the rates lower and lower due to the annual influx of newly qualified pharmacists. As soon as newly qualified pharmacists get to know the underhanded tactics used by certain agencies and learn the negotiation skills to get higher rates, the next lot of newly qualified comes around and the cycle repeats again. They are then used by those agencies for reduced rates and are thrown into the messy deep end in initial days and they cover difficult branches as well because they don’t know the poor working condition of these branches.

Locums have historically worked for higher rates with full mileage and some time travel time paid as well, especially in hard to reach areas and coastal areas but that is only because they know the experienced locum pharmacists know they don’t give in and dont accept the first rate on offer.

Remember that depending on the area, urgency and time of the year, higher rates plus full mileage and/or travel time etc is frequently achieved for certain areas. However, do not make completely silly and unrealistic offers and remember to always negotiate rates, mileage and travel times.

There is however still a large pool of locums accepting lower rates than advertised which is a major detriment to the Pharmacy profession. The only thing we can do is to encourage other pharmacists to join groups such as the Pharmacist Cooperative Telegram network and educate other pharmacists such as newcomers, pharmacy students and pre-regs about the art of shift negotiation.

Author: Anonymous Locum
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