Rising locum rates a factor behind pharmacy closures, says CCA

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Rising locum rates a factor behind pharmacy closures, says CCA

Rising locum rates may be contributing to a rise in temporary pharmacy closures, the Company Chemists’ Association has claimed. 

In written evidence submitted to the parliamentary health select committee’s workforce hearing and published on June 8, the trade body for large multiples said rising hourly rates “may lead to locums deciding not to take as many shifts as they would have otherwise done,” making it difficult for some community pharmacies to open for all their contracted hours.

The CCA also pointed to data from recruitment agency Locate a Locum indicating that between 2020 and 2021 locum pharmacist rates “increased by an average of 64 per cent in England and 123 per cent in Scotland,” which it said demonstrates that supply is not keeping pace with demand. 

It said workforce pressures such as high vacancy rates – which are affecting support staff roles as well as pharmacists – are causing more pharmacies to close temporarily, thereby incurring breach notices from local NHS bodies and in some cases fines.

This affects multiples “more acutely” than independents, said the CCA, arguing that a pharmacist contractor may work on their day off to keep the pharmacy open, whereas a multiple “cannot ask its employees to make such sacrifices”.

“No pharmacy wishes to or sets out to closure but closures are at risk of rising without Government intervention to address the workforce challenges and chronic under-investment,” said the CCA as it called on the Government and NHS to help develop “a workforce strategy for the entirety of primary care”.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has been critical of the CCA’s stance on closures, arguing that working conditions in some pharmacies are a major factor behind recruitment and retention issues.

PCN recruitment 

The CCA said the recruitment of pharmacists to primary care networks has left a hole in the community pharmacy workforce, with an estimated 2,960 community pharmacists migrating to PCN roles since 2020.

This is “higher than the estimated number of new registrants who start working in community pharmacies in England every year,” said the trade body.

It also cited data from the PSNC showing that pharmacy teams are dealing with a significant rise in requests from patients, and a Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey showing that nine out of 10 pharmacists are at high risk of burnout.  

The CCA attributed the rise in pharmacist vacancies detailed in a Health Education England report this year to “changing working patterns” such as increased part-time working, although the HEE report also indicates that the average number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacist posts per pharmacy is on the rise.

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