The Pharmacists' Defence Association has warned off pharmacy companies and locum agencies threatening to refer locums to the GPhC for seeking to negotiate higher rates in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid recent reports that locums have been urged to triple their asking rate to a minimum of £60 an hour, the GPhC has raised concerns about “profiteering to take selfish advantage of the current challenging situation”.
This week the PDA said it wished to offer some “clarity and reassurances” to locum pharmacists.
“Rates for community pharmacy locum assignments must be individually negotiated between the locum and client or through a locum agency. This is an important element of a free market arrangement consistent with the expectations of the Competition and Markets Authority. The ability to negotiate prices for a job is a factor taken into account by the HMRC when determining the self-employed status of a locum,” said the PDA.
Having taken legal advice, the PDA said it is unlawful for employers to seek to manipulate market rates and inhibit free market conditions, either by acting together or by conspiring with locum agencies.
However, the PDA cautioned that the same anti-competition rules for business also apply to locum pharmacists. Any organised groups or collectives of locums who discuss how they might seek to fix a minimum market rates, and particularly those who are seen to encourage others to take advantage of the pandemic situation, run a similar risk of being referred to the CMA by employers.
The PDA further said: “We fully understand the sentiments of the GPhC in so far as it relates to behaviour that could undermine wider public confidence in the profession and we support these concerns.
"However, the GPhC has no other legitimate regulatory interest in the commercial rates agreed between locums and their clients.”
Around a third of the PDA’s 30,000 members are locum pharmacists.