How an App Is Helping Independent Contractor Pharmacists in the UK Get Jobs

MAY 21, 2018
Locum pharmacists in the United Kingdom are the equivalent of relief pharmacists in the states.

Basically independent contractors, locum pharmacists work at pharmacies with openings and no coverage, filling jobs for specific time periods, which can vary. Locum pharmacists tend to have no benefits.
 
So, what is the appeal? The results of a study that looked into the market identified a few reasons.1

Factors that play into the decision to work as a locum pharmacist include job flexibility and work-life balance. Many who go this route do not want to be burdened with paperwork. However, the disadvantages include fewer training opportunities, most likely because they would have to pay for it themselves, and a perceived lack of respect from peers. 
 
In the United States, most chain pharmacies, both national and regional, usually have floaters, who for all intents and purposes are relief pharmacists who cover for staff members during illnesses, leaves of absences, vacations, etc.

So, how is the use of locum pharmacists managed in the United Kingdom, with its large number of independents? Even among chains in the United States, someone needs to manage the use of floater pharmacists.
 
An online service, Locate a Locum, is booming in the United Kingdom.2 It is a novel service, serving as a communication and job board for pharmacies to post openings and shifts, along with the pay rate, for locums to browse. The company says that it already has more than 4000 pharmacists signed up for more than 8000 shifts posted. The way it works is that pharmacies post their jobs, and pharmacists who are signed up get alerts to the openings to which they can apply. The pharmacy then reviews applicants, chooses ones for open shift, and then pays them.
 
Locate a Locum is an on-demand job offering meets dating application combined, though there are no pharmacist ratings as of now.
 
The company says the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) spends about 4 billion pounds per year on agency fees. Locate a Locum can save the NHS an average of 105 pounds per day for each temporary member of staff by using the software solution." 
 
Could such an app come to the US market? It might work in some regions with many independents. Even chains could use such as system to manage floaters and schedules. Stay tuned.
 
References

1. Shann P, Hassell K. Flexible working: understanding the locum pharmacist in Great Britain. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2006;2(3):388-407.
2. Locate a Locum. locatealocum.com/. Accessed May 21, 2018.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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