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  • Writer's pictureDavid Harper

How To Become A Locum Pharmacist

Where were you when the millennium happened? Were you working, were you still young and wide-eyed as the fireworks flied? Well, since that day when the calendars flipped from 1 to 2 on the far left, there’s been a noticeable pattern emerging in working Britain: we’re staying in jobs a lot shorter.

Between 1957 and 1964, working folk between the age of 18 and 48 worked an average of 11.7 jobs.

Fast forward a few years to those millennials amongst us who saw their childhood or adolescence years across the millennium, and that figure is closer to 13. It’s a phenomenon called ‘job hopping’ and it’s seeing people since the millennium stay in a role for shorter and shorter amounts of time – an average of 4.4 years per role.

There are several reasons why this has become the go-to trend for people forging their  career paths; notably:

  1. Speeding up career progression

  2. A greater job fulfilment

  3. Defensive planning; in lieu of greater financial insecurity

  4. And in general, a stronger post-modern sense of freedom of choice and action.

So, if you’re a pharmacist who has been working in your current position for a stretch of time and are considering a change, rest assured you’re amongst friends! Whether it’s due to needing a change of pace, feeling like you can no longer progress in your current role, or desiring a greater degree of control over your rate of pay, if you’re considering a change and think becoming a locum pharmacist is the way to go, with a little preparation you can make the change easy and stress-free!

First Thoughts: What Do I Need?

You do not need any additional certificates or qualifications to transition from permanent pharmacy roles into locum work. To register as a locum pharmacist with an agency, we ask that you provide:

  1. Proof of National Insurance

  2. Professional Indemnity Insurance Certificate

  3. MUR certificate (England & Wales) 

  4. Repeat Dispensing Certificate (England & Wales)

  5. Your NMS

  6. Two professional industry references

  7. Your GPhC registration number*

If you have all of this to hand, you’ll find transitioning into a locum position smooth sailing.

We will ask you to complete a Locum ID check – this is to check your Right to Work in the UK. You can process this either by bringing your documents ie passport to our office or by asking a permanent Pharmacist or Technician (must be registered with the GPhC) at a convenient pharmacy to make the identity check – but this is all explained more thoroughly during registration.

* If you’re a pre-registration pharmacist looking to register before you’ve passed your exam, please note you can do this! We’re happy to help you get ahead of the game and register with us now, and once you’ve passed and acquired your GPhC number, we can approve your account.

Recommended Seconds: What Should I Buy?

Whilst the bare minimum of what you need is listed above, we recommend that you make a couple of investments that will make locum life much easier for you, if you don’t already have them…

  1. A modern smartphone.

Whilst it’s true that 7 out of 10 people now in the UK own a smartphone, some people place it as a lower priority, being fine with an older model at a cheaper contract or initial purchase lump sum fee. Whilst it’s not necessary to have the absolute latest mobile technology, we do recommend having a decently up-to-date phone within the last 3 years of release.

As a locum pharmacist, you’ll be on the move quite a bit and it will be very helpful to be able to rely on your phone for map routes, emails and to review your bookings for upcoming days, so that you’ll always be organised. A slow phone that can’t handle modern apps easily or one with poor or minimal internet connectivity or slack battery power could leave you stranded and flustered in a time where a quick lookup for a route to your next booking or communication about the following day’s work would be very helpful.

  1.  A filecase & cash book.

As a locum pharmacist, you’ll be self-employed. This can deter some people due to the thought of having to manage your own tax returns and finances. However, if you remain on the ball and consistent with your tracking, it can become a simple day-to-day task of your work. You should track your income from placement to placement  – however long – and any official expenses daily. At the close of each placement, you’ll want to ensure you have a record of all hours worked and get a remittance advice note for confirmation of payment.

A good agency will provide a diary that will help you with this. We have an online diary that possesses the facility to benchmark when you have been paid from placement to placement – so you’ll always know when and where you still need to receive and track payment from.

You can use a simple cash book (or spreadsheet if you prefer a digital solution!) to track your hours and expenses and a filecase will allow you to retain receipts of payments for when you complete your tax returns.

You can have a read of the official government page for tax returns here, or alternatively the Citizen’s Advice Bureau have a great page with general advice about managing tax returns here.

  1. A DBS

The DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) replaced the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) in December of 2012 and a certification from them combined with a subscription to the Update Service discloses your safe and lawful practice as a pharmacist, technician or dispenser, and assures the pharmacy that you have a clean slate when it comes to your handling of high-risk medication.

Whilst it’s not an absolute prerequisite for your work to have a DBS – many Pharmacies in 2017 require it. We’ve compiled some handy advice previously about why you should invest in your DBS certificate and how to go about doing it.

Your DBS continually certifies the standard of your person professionally and protects your reputation. We recommend investing in one to protect that and in the case of many pharmacies, maximise your opportunity for employment.

Shrewd Thirds: What Do I Need To Consider?

As a self-employed locum, it’s worth noting that, whilst you can dictate your own rate of pay and negotiate to your specifications, being self-employed means you do not benefit from a few of the statutory mandated employment rights of someone who is permanently employed. These include:

  1. Paid holiday leave

  2. Paid maternity leave

  3. Redundancy compensation

  4. Statutory sick pay

  5. And a right to notice of dismissal.

In particular, sick pay and holiday pay being absent are of note, as should you fall ill for a period of time or want to take that glorious break to Barbados you’ve been dreaming about, you’ll need to account for it out of your own pocket.

It helps to put aside a fund for this in a separate account – an emergency fund or specialist fund, for those times where you need a little extra.

You can also invest in personal illness insurance if you’d like that little bit of extra security. Illness insurance will cover you against any period where you may be incapable of work due to injury, illness or sustained temporary disability. There are many different types of illness insurance available, so if you’d like to cover yourself, shop around and get several quotes before deciding on what’s best for you.

Final Fourths: What Should I Do?

Ultimately, the success of working as a locum boils down to two factors:

  1. Organisation

  2. Time management

If you can excel at both of these, working as a locum can be a fun, freeing and lucrative endeavour.

The most critical part of this is ensuring that you have a constant flow of placements coming in at all times. There may be a day or two when you don’t work here and there, but so long as you can provide steady work for yourself and a solid income, you’ll find you can flourish in locum work.

Another activity we advise is to manage your time seasonally, as there are defined peaks and troughs in pharmacist demand across the year. Typically, in the Spring, Summer & Autumn, you’ll find work far more readily available, whereas Winter tends to be much quieter. Its for this reason, we recommend you plan your year around this seasonality, and take holidays, breaks or time off to work on developing your skills and accreditations in Winter, when demand is quieter.

We also recommend you take the time to invest in an agency for your work, as doing so – which comes at no cost or subscription fee – will allow you to access a dedicated online calendar which will display your bookings and provide frequent reminders.

Doing this will get you off on the right foot for achieving optimal organisational and time management – leaving you to optimise your own rate of pay and venue of work and taking your career as a pharmacist to the next level.

To find out more about how registering with us can help advance, progress or kick-start your locum pharmacist career, register with us here.

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