UK pharmacy locums are set to boycott Tesco next month after news earlier this year that the supermarket giant would slash its hourly locum rate.
One Voice Pharmacy, which says it is “by pharmacists, for pharmacists” has expressed ongoing concern about pharmacist pay rates in the UK, particularly after the June announcement that Tesco would cut its Monday to Friday hourly locum rate from £19.50 to £18 in some locations.
It wrote to Tesco outlining its concerns but did not receive an encouraging response.
“Tescos have therefore forced our hand into boycotting. We therefore propose between the dates of 10th – 24th September; ALL locum pharmacists do not book any shifts with Tesco,” One Voice Pharmacy wrote on its Facebook page.
In an earlier letter to Tesco’s commercial lead manager Mark Raffaitin, One Voice highlighted that “the overwhelming feedback we have received from particularly the community locum pharmacists is that they are yet to see a competitive rate of around £18.00 per hour”.
“We, the locum pharmacists, fail to see how your rate is competitive. You as a fellow pharmacist are able to relate to the responsibility we uphold and can appreciate the work contribution towards the effective and safe running of the pharmacy. Would you work for £18 an hour?” it wrote.
“Furthermore, locum pharmacists have also highlighted that the workload in relation to staffing levels in certain pharmacies leave pharmacists vulnerable to making errors.
“Locum pharmacists have reported to One Voice that there have been many occasions where they have not had any support staff and have been forced to self-check their work.
“This vulnerability within the profession, as we are sure you can agree, can lead to and has already lead to patient harm, having a detrimental effect not only the pharmacist themselves, but the profession and the trust the patients have in Tesco Pharmacy.
“In addition to providing essential services, pharmacists now feel pressurised more than ever to conduct more MURs and NMS etc. in order to improve on the rate that has been brought in by Tesco.
“The services offered by pharmacists should be purely based on patient care as it is why we are in this profession; and not be treated as an incentive. These kind of working pressures have already been highlighted in a negative light by various publications and also have been brought to the attention of the GPhC and relevant bodies.”
Raffaitin responded by saying that Tesco had reviewed locum pay after an analysis of market conditions.
“Our analysis of the market found that nationally, multiple pharmacies were offering locum rates of between £18 and £24 per hour dependant on the day/time of day worked and therefore our new rates are in line with our competitors,” he wrote.
“It is important to stress that our rates range from £18-£24/hr and the overwhelming majority of Tesco locums earn the higher rate of pay.
“So, whilst the lowest hourly rate is £18 per hour, with that being the rate several commentators have focused on, it should be noted that over 85% of our locums are still paid in excess of £20 per hour which compares favourably when viewed across the industry.”
All locum pharmacists are being encouraged not to book shifts within Tesco supermarkets between September 10-24.
A spokesperson for One Voice Pharmacy, Tanzeel Younas, told UK pharmacy magazine Chemist + Druggist that the boycott was not a strike, and any locums who had already booked shifts during the period should honour the bookings.
“The last thing we want to do is for pharmacies to end up with no pharmacists,” he told C + D.