This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
I have always wondered why locum pharmacists are not more appreciated and remunerated for the work they do, day in, day out. Take a locum community pharmacist, for example. The alarm goes off at 5am (yes, 5am!) and it’s time for a quick shower before a 60, 70, 80, 90 or sometimes up to 100 mile journey along unfamiliar roads to an unfamiliar pharmacy. After one, two or three hours of driving in sometimes horrible weather, you arrive and, after finding parking, you approach the pharmacy. “You are late!” is the manager’s version of “Good morning” to you (your smartwatch confirms you are indeed 3.5 minutes late because you walked past the unfamiliar entrance to the pharmacy earlier — never mind). “You will be working with dispensers A,B,C,D and E… we don’t use staples, labels are stuck lengthwise etc”.
You then go through the day, trying to remember every member of staff’s name, processes of that particular pharmacy, trying not to upset anyone and finishing the nine-hour shift with all work completed and prescriptions checked with 100% accuracy. 6pm arrives and its time for another 2 hour drive back home. You barely have time for dinner before it is bedtime.
Alarm goes off… clock says 05:00 am… here we go again.
So, that’s the light-hearted part of the story done.
The serious bit is that locum pharmacists, whether working in hospital, primary care or community pharmacy, do a difficult job and have to keep up to date in an ever changing pharmacy world at their own expense. There are no paid holidays, no reimbursed fees, no sick pay, no employers pension, and accountancy services have to be paid for.
While locuming is an individual choice, locums allow employed pharmacists well needed time off for days off and annual holidays, as well as emergency cover owing to sickness.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, locum pharmacists rose to the challenge to keep pharmacies open while GP surgeries shut their doors to their patients. The first three weeks of the first lockdown was like three busy Christmas periods rolled in one — I know because I locumed throughout that period and worked with staff close to breaking point.
I hope the RPS can increase their support for the locum pharmacist workforce as we play a large part in the RPS’ mission to put pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare. If elected, I hope to push for such support for locum pharmacists in all sectors — hospital, primary care and community settings.
Adebayo Adegbite, election candidate, English Pharmacy Board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society