Consultant Deep Dive: The Rise and Fall of the Locum Golden Era

5 mins

After the world was stuck by Covid-19, locum rates soared across the country shortly after; ...

Nathan Doherty

By Nathan Doherty

After the world was stuck by Covid-19, locum rates soared across the country shortly after; receiving an hourly rate of £45+ seemed to be the norm. Almost 4 years on, now that the world is back on it’s feet, we are seeing locum rates plummet back down to £20 - £25 in most cities throughout the UK. Some locums I’ve been speaking to struggle to even find a shift! So, the question remains... Is the golden era of locuming over? Are the days of £40ph only available to those willing to travel to Timbuktu? 

The current market conditions

I’ve been speaking with several pharmacists over the past month, and it’s noticeable that the market rates have significantly contracted from where they were only a few months ago. Throughout cities like London, Birmingham, Oxford, and Manchester, to name a few, we have seen rates drop by as much as £20 per hour for an average shift. After conversations with locums within these cities, I can tell that even their expectations for a rate they are willing or happy to receive for a day’s work have adjusted to the current market conditions. 

Multiple pharmacists I’ve spoken to recently based in the Manchester area claimed that they are struggling to even find a shift most days, and when they do find a shift, the rate is around £22 per hour.

What is causing the rates to drop?

The big rate drop isn’t happening for no reason; there are a multitude of factors at play that are out of your control. Firstly, with newly qualified pharmacists hitting the market twice a year, naturally, rates will drop. A newly qualified pharmacist who has recently joined the job market will not have the same expectations as a pharmacist with 10+ years of experience. These newly qualified pharmacists are looking for experience following their training, and a rate of £20 - £25 per hour for someone who was earning £25,000 per year as a foundation pharmacist is quite a nice pay rise!

We also cannot overlook arguably the most crucial factor at play in this whole situation: the big multiples closing and selling their pharmacies at levels never seen before. With Lloyds Pharmacy closing their doors and selling branches, along with companies like Boots selling a few of their stores to make their operations more streamlined, there is a huge surplus of pharmacists who were in full-time work who are now looking for new opportunities. Because of this factor, more pharmacists are applying for roles and fighting over one position like never before.

What does the future of locuming look like?

The question remains, what will happen to the locuming scene within the next 12–24 months? In my opinion, I don’t see much changing from the current situation. We are in a volatile time with regards to community pharmacy. Pharmacies are being bought and sold left, right, and centre, and with the introduction of Pharmacy First, a lot of pharmacy owners are cautiously looking forward to seeing how it affects the space. 

After 2 years or so, once things have calmed down, I do feel like there will be more opportunities for locums, as current small independent pharmacies look to expand their business and buy new pharmacies, which will add demand to the locum market. With this said, however, unless there is a pandemic again anytime soon (hopefully there is not), locum rates are likely to sit within the £20ph - £30ph range. It all goes back to supply and demand.

What are the best options for a locum pharmacist currently?

If you are chasing the highest rate, those £40ph - £50ph rates are out there, but you must travel far and wide. As mentioned at the start of this blog, if you are happy travelling to the peaks of Scotland and the crevasses of Cornwall, you will be rewarded with a good rate. Most people will struggle to commit to these positions as they often need to book weeks at a time at X location. With commitments like family, this can be hard.

An alternative to traveling far and wide for the highest locum rates is to take on a full-time position. Working as a full-time pharmacist is very different from being a locum, but it can be more rewarding, especially now. Here at Quad Recruitment, we have been seeing some very interesting and competitive packages to reward pharmacists for their hard work.

We helped a pharmacist two weeks ago secure a position paying a salary of £66,000 per year (£27ph) only 10 minutes from their home in Birmingham. Along with this rate of pay, they were also provided service bonuses for each service that they performed.

Where to go next?

There is no right or wrong answer in terms of what to do with your career; it is something you must think about very carefully. But, looking at the current market conditions, picking up a full-time position would likely pay you very similarly to a locum role, with a difference in progression and career support.

If you’re a pharmacist looking for career development in terms of receiving support to become an independent prescriber along with a competitive salary and other benefits like service bonuses, get in touch with me today, as I’d be happy to discuss all options with you and provide you with any information that we have here at Quad:


Phone: 01244 621477

P.S. Thanks for reading!