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Home  »   Latest News   »   Locums report being told to reduce agreed shift rates or be cancelled.

Locums report being told to reduce agreed shift rates or be cancelled.

One of the largest pharmacy chains in the UK, and a leading member of the Company Chemists Association, has been contacting some locum pharmacists to demand they either accept lower rates for work they have already contracted with the company, or the shift will be cancelled. It seems the company has simultaneously told thousands of their social media followers that a national shortage of pharmacists is causing them to close pharmacies.

Tue 19th July 2022 The PDA

Some locum pharmacists who had existing confirmed bookings at Tesco stores have reported to the PDA that the company have contacted them to say that if they do not agree to accept lower rates than have already agreed, the company will cancel their booking.

The reported messages follow a communication from Tesco setting self-imposed so-called “wage rates” for locums.  This is confusing as locums are self-employed and therefore should be able to negotiate rates with their clients just as any other independent supplier can do.  Using terminology such as “wage rates” is more indicative of an employer-employee relationship and could undermine the status of the locum market in community pharmacy. Employees are also entitled to various extra benefits and have greater employment rights.

IR35

The PDA understand that large pharmacy chains are currently responding to an HMRC review which relates to possible income tax and national insurance contributions owed if locums were reclassified as employees due to their working arrangements.  This latest action by Tesco could undermine any claim that locums are self-employed.

Messages to locums

Examples of the messages received this week follow:

Regulations state that a responsible pharmacist must be at the pharmacy for it to open and operate safely, and therefore, if the locum shift is cancelled, and no other pharmacist is engaged to cover the shift it must be closed, denying patients and communities the much-needed access to a pharmacy.  However, there appear to be no financial penalties for the business in closing, and they will still be able to receive payment from the NHS.

If a locum shift was agreed in advance but is cancelled by the employer, resulting in a closure, the PDA believe no reasonable person would describe that as there being a shortage of pharmacists.

Claims to the Public

In one part of the country, after the following screenshot relating to closures was shared multiple times on social media, it seems to have been deleted from a Facebook page called “Northallerton Community Champion”.  The page has thousands of followers and although it does not identify itself as being managed by Tesco, it seems to almost exclusively promote Tesco community involvement in that area and provides updates, talking in the first person when speaking about that Tesco store.

The PDA does not know if a locum was previously booked for this store on the dates it will now close. If any locum did have a booking for Tuesday 19th, Saturday 23rd or Sunday 24th July at Tesco, North Allerton which was cancelled, they should contact the PDA with details.  The PDA also invite locums anywhere in the UK who experience similar treatment, to share evidence to support our campaign against these closures.

The epidemic of avoidable community pharmacy closures is truly shocking.  None of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers, Health Ministers, Regulators or national NHS bodies should be unaware of this issue and the potential impact it has on patients and the public.

The PDA have been raising concerns about this across the UK and repeats the call for intervention to safeguard access to pharmacies for the public.

 

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