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Struggles faced by locum pharmacists in Scotland

With some Scottish health boards recently approving pharmacy closures on Saturdays, a PDA member discusses the struggles of working as a locum pharmacist, and how this is expected to only worsen.

Mon 15th August 2022 The PDA

I decided to leave my job of over a decade with a well-known high street pharmacy chain due to the increasingly unrealistic expectations that the management had for a part-time relief pharmacist. The stress of the ever-increasing demands put on the pharmacist with seemingly ever-reducing resource and support staffing alongside faulty I.T., botched launches, and the stress of short notice and part-day closures mixed with the demands of family life just was not making me happy any longer and I would find myself miserable at home thinking about work.

Working as a locum pharmacist in Scotland

I had seen and worked alongside an increased number of locums during the Covid-19 pandemic, and they seemed a lot more relaxed, happier, and had fewer overwhelming demands placed on them, so I took the leap, handed in my notice, and for the past 6 months, I have worked as a locum pharmacist. I perform at the same high levels that I did in my previous role as an employee, putting patients first and at the heart of my decision-making. After a few months of working in different pharmacy settings, such as independents and other large and small chains, I settled for regular shifts with another large pharmacy chain near to my home as routine was important to manage my job and family life.

Losing shifts

Recently, I had noticed that shifts advertised would become unavailable when I would attempt to negotiate for higher rates, bearing in mind these rates were not an obscene amount and they would be on the week requests and the stores that they were in were extremely busy and very demanding. Closer to the day in question, the shifts would still be available which would be frustrating.

Last week I had two of my shifts cancelled by the company’s resource co-ordinators in my area due to a ‘change in rota and restructuring of stores’. Shifts where we had agreed reasonable rates in advance for me to be present in the store to allow them to open to the public and provide the services they are contractually obligated to provide. I was neither called nor asked, just an email sent through to my junk mail that I, fortunately, happen to check daily. I was offered other alternative stores that, unfortunately for me, were much further away from where we had originally agreed and disrupted my other commitments, but I had to take them due to the short notice of a few days and need of an income.

After further enquiries it has become evident that both Boots and LloydsPharmacy, seemingly with the backing and blessing of the local NHS Scotland health board, have decided that they can shut some stores on Saturdays and/or weekends for a trial period.

Saturday closures

For me personally, the impact of Saturday pharmacy closures will be having to rearrange and look for childcare once again on available days that come up and the added stress of the unknown situation for locum jobs once more. I am self-employed and, as with every other self-employed person, I rely on the availability of work to earn my living. Therefore, if the work is not available, it will have a domino effect on my ability to afford and partake in everything else.

All this, I can only assume, is another cost-cutting exercise on the part of the multiples that does not put the care of patients at the heart of the decision, in fact anywhere near the decision. As appalling as that is, I am even more shocked that the health board who supposedly is ‘responsible for the delivery of frontline healthcare services and for the protection and improvement of their population’s health’ seems to think this is a decision that will in any way improve or protect the health of the patients they purport to represent.


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