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Locum pharmacist guide – What is a locum pharmacist and how do I become one?

Locum pharmacy workers are a crucial part of the healthcare workforce in the UK, performing vital services in hospitals, community pharmacies and clinics across the country. And working as a locum pharmacist is becoming an attractive proposition for an increasing number of pharmacists.

But what actually is a locum pharmacist? In this guide, we cover common questions such as what are locum pharmacists, what benefits are there to going locum, and how to become a locum pharmacist.

What is a locum pharmacist?

First of all, what actually is a locum pharmacist? Put simply, a locum pharmacist is a freelance or temporary pharmacist. Locum pharmacists work on a contractual basis, rather than having a permanent, salaried job. Many organisations and pharmacies use locum pharmacists to cover things such as permanent staff holidays, sick leave or maternity leave. While sometimes locum pharmacists are required to plug gaps in the rota caused by an increased workload.

Whatever the need, locum pharmacists are required to have all the relevant qualifications, training, immunisation records and proof of right to work that their permanent counterparts have.

Benefits of locum pharmacy work

More and more pharmacists are swapping permanent jobs for locum work. Perhaps you’re thinking of making the change too. And there’s a number of reasons why many pharmacy workers are considering becoming a locum pharmacist.

Flexibility

One of the major benefits of locum pharmacy work is the increased flexibility it offers. You have complete control over where, when and how you work. You get to decide what kind of jobs you take (hospitals, community pharmacists, vaccination clinics etc.) and what shifts you take. Additionally, you agree your hourly rate beforehand. So you can pick the jobs that work for you, and fit around your lifestyle and commitments. If you like to travel around, you can take jobs in different towns and cities, or if you’re only looking to work close by, then you can just locum in your local area.

More free time

Since locum pharmacists have complete control over how often they work, becoming a locum pharmacist can be a way to gain more free time. Provided you can afford to work fewer hours than you would as a full time pharmacist, you are able to work as many or as few hours as you want, creating more free time to do the things you enjoy!

Variety

They say variety is the spice of life, and if you’re looking for a bit more variety in your professional life, becoming a locum pharmacist could be the way to achieve this. As a locum, you’re able to choose where you work. This opens up the door to working in different kinds of environments: community pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and more! The experience you gain working in these varied environments is invaluable, and demonstrates your flexibility and adaptability as a pharmacist.

If you’re a people person, locum pharmacy work could be ideal for you. By working for several different employers, in a variety of settings, you will meet a diverse range of people from all walks of life, both patients and colleagues. Additionally, meeting lots of different people in your profession helps build your network, which can open doors for more work further down the line.

Focus on delivery

Many locum pharmacist jobs are more focused on delivery than on management and paperwork. So if you are particularly interested in roles providing core pharmacy services, and less about ongoing and longer term strategic and management challenges, locum work could well be the ticket.

Money

At the top end of the scale, locum pharmacy roles can be pretty well paid, and the average rate for locum pharmacists has increased in the last few years. So more and more pharmacists are making the switch for financial reasons too. Find out more about locum pharmacist salaries.

So that’s an overview of what a locum pharmacist actually is, and some of the benefits of locum work. If you’ve decided to take the plunge and try locum pharmacy work, how do you actually become a locum pharmacist? Read on to find out!

How to become a locum pharmacist

So how do you actually become a locum pharmacist? While it may seem daunting to set up as a locum, and there are a lot of things to consider and organise, if you find the right pharmacy recruitment agency that can help you with the process, the path to locum work needn’t be a massive headache.

Find an agency of preference

Naturally, we’ll always recommend you join us. BUT, in reality, we might not be the right fit for you. We’re a specialist pharmacy recruitment agency only, so if you’re a doctor, nurse or HCPC we probably won’t be the right fit for you.

Some questions you should ask any recruitment agency you are considering working with to find locum jobs include:

  • How many clients do you have for locum pharmacy work in my area?

  • What’s the typical hourly rate for my profession, experience and location?

  • What kind of roles do you have most of? (hospital, community pharmacy, vaccinator etc.)

  • How long do the contracts typically run for?

  • How often do you pay locum pharmacists registered with you?

  • How do you pay them?

If you’re happy with their answers, then this might be the agency for you. If you decide to work with the agency, they will need some documents and information from you before you can begin working locum roles. So the quicker you get these things to the recruitment agency, the quicker you can get started!

Initial agency interview

At this stage, you may be invited into a branch/office for an interview. This will generally be very casual, and it’s simply to go over some Terms & Conditions and for you to meet the recruiters you will be working with to find locum pharmacist roles. It’s a great opportunity for you to meet the team, get a good vibe and make a great impression. At the end of the day, we recruiters hold the key to all the clients you want to work with as a locum pharmacist, so use this opportunity to ask us any questions you have and get a good understanding of who we are and what we do.

Compliance

This is the step where all the boring paperwork and bureaucracy is dealt with. It’s probably the most important step on your road to becoming a locum pharmacist, which is why it is the step that often takes the longest. There are lots of documents and information we require in order to process your registration as a locum. The documents we may request on registration include:

  • Full Employment History (up to date CV)

  • References covering 3 years of employment (at least 2 clinical references)

  • Verification of Identity (a variation could include - 2 photograph ID's and 1 Proof of Address OR 1 photograph ID and 2 Proofs of address)

  • Passport style photograph

  • DBS Certificate + update server checked

  • Overseas DBS if applicable

  • Full Immunisation record (MMR, BCG SIGHTED, VARICELLA)

  • Any valid mandatory training certificates obtained

  • Indemnity Insurance

  • Professional Qualification Certificate

If a new DBS is required follow this link to apply for a new DBS. We will also require you to fill in some additional forms for your locum registration, including:

Our compliance team will then get to work carrying out some checks and verifying your documentation. Their checks include:

  • Qualification Verification

  • Professional Body Pin Check

  • Fitness to Work Certificate

  • Identity Verification Scan

If you have any questions about what you need to become a locum, get in touch with our compliance team and they’ll be happy to help.

In general, our recommendation is to block a few hours’ time where you can sit down and collect all this information together to submit to our compliance team. If you do things in dribs and drabs, the likelihood is, it might not get done properly. We’ve had some people in our compliance files take up to six months to get ready for Locum work. By which time the roles they were initially interested in will probably be filled already.

Get out to work

Once all your paperwork has been checked and verified, all the necessary forms have been filled in, and all the I’s have been dotted and the T’s crossed, we can complete your registration as a locum pharmacist. You’re then ready to start working as a locum pharmacist! We have an up to date list of all live pharmacy jobs that you can apply for on our website. And your recruiter will also keep you posted regarding any relevant vacancies, based on the information you supplied about your preferred roles in the interview step.

Frequently asked questions about working as a locum pharmacist

The following are some of the questions we get asked the most about how to become a locum pharmacist, and what life is like as a locum pharmacy worker.

How often will I get work as a locum pharmacist?

This is down to you and the agency you work with. It depends how many hours you want to work. You might give your agency a limit on the number of hours worked per week, and not want to work past that. On the other hand, the agency may not have enough vacancies to be able to fulfil the number of hours that you want to work. Therefore, we recommend getting registered with several locum pharmacist agencies.

How will I get paid?

Usually this will be done through an outsourced payroll provider (a so called Umbrella Company). The agency will transfer your pay to them, and they will pay you via PAYE. This is usually done on a weekly basis (we pay every Friday, for example).

The Umbrella Company acts as your employer and, as such, they will sort all your tax deductions and any pay queries that you have. It’s super easy and trouble free. The money that you receive is yours to keep.

Do locum pharmacists need an accountant?

In most cases, the answer is no. If you’re working ‘inside’ IR35, which you will most likely be doing, by law you’re not allowed to be self-employed and invoice the company directly. You must work directly for a business (the Umbrella Company) and be paid via the PAYE scheme, as previously mentioned. We have a list of reputable preferred suppliers for Umbrella Companies, which you're welcome to use, including: ORANGE GENIE, NASA GROUP, SAPPHIREand ADVANCE.

If you’re allowed to work ‘outside’ of IR35 and be self-employed, then we (the agency) can pay you directly into your business account. It is then entirely down to you to sort out all tax deductions. In this situation it is probably a good idea to get an accountant to look over your tax return to make sure it’s completely accurate.

Do you offer training for locum pharmacists?

We offer a full CSFT training programme for free, all of which is accessible digitally and remotely. If you wish to hold a copy of your certificates there will be small charge of £35.

So that was our overview of what is a locum, what are the benefits, and how to become a locum pharmacist. We hope you found that helpful! But if you still have questions about how to become a locum pharmacist, you’re welcome to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help out. Either send an email to info@quadrecruitment.com or give us a call on +44(0)1244 621477. Or if you’re ready to get started with your registration, head over to our registration page to get the ball rolling.

Hannah Williams is Head of Compliance at Quad Recruitment. She is responsible for the entire registration and compliance process, including ensuring locum pharmacists registered with Quad have all the necessary documents and information, and that they’re fully prepared for entering the world of locum pharmacy. Hannah.Williams@quadrecruitment.com