Healthcare locums provide vital cover when a regular member of staff is absent. Broadly, there’s very substantial demand for locums here in the UK. But statistically, a high proportion of locums lose bookings for reasons they can very easily avoid. In this post, we’re going to look at three of the most common reasons locum pharmacists lose agency bookings…
It might be envisaged outside the healthcare business that pharmacists most commonly lose agency bookings because of professional lapses in the working environment. This, however, is rare.
Whilst, of course, pharmacists are required to maintain high professional standards, locums supplied by reputable agencies almost certainly will. Not only are pharmacists properly vetted and referenced when signing up with a professional locum agency? – they’re also, here in the UK, answerable to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). As with other healthcare professionals, pharmacists who don’t maintain required standards are liable to encounter an industry-wide suspension. So there’s very little danger of serious misconduct from a UK locum, booked through a reputable agency.
So why do locum pharmacists lose work? If you’re a locum who maintains a healthy working timetable, you may know what we’re going to say. But if not, you may be quite suprised…
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
This is an incredibly common, incredibly simple faux pas, which can have dramatic consequences. Locums who neglect to let their agency know when they’re available, and/or who don’t reply to messages, are in dire danger of losing bookings. When an agency gets very busy, there’s little time for its staff to chase locums for details of their availability. Hence, the agency will almost inevitably prioritise the locums who communicate their availability status without being asked. The result? When things are hectic (and that can be most of the time at a locum agency), locums who keep the agency in the loop gain the bookings — those who don’t, lose them.
What’s worst about this cause of lost bookings, is that many locums don’t recognise it – or even, in some cases, realise they’re missing out on bookings they could otherwise have secured!
FAILURE TO PROVIDE THE AGENCY WITH UP-TO-DATE DOCUMENTATION
UK law states that agencies must verify the validity of their locums’ professional documentation, as well as confirming their general right to work. Since some professional documentation (such as a pharmacist’s Indemnity Insurance and General Pharmaceutical Council registration) expires annually, the renewals must be verified and recorded by the agency.
Pharmacists do normally renew their actual documentation on time. What they’re less likely to do, however, is pass on a copy of their new documentation to the agency. Agencies can access proof of renewals when they’re logged in the public domain – as is the case with GPhC registration. But with Professional Indemnity Insurance, the data is not public, and the pharmacist must personally furnish a copy of their renewal documentation to the agency. If they don’t, the agency will be unable to allocate the locum to bookings.
It sounds as though this would be a simple matter of an agency requesting the updated documentation from the locum shortly before expiry – and of course, that’s what a professional agency will do. However, the issue of communication once again comes into play, and it’s hard to determine the right time to request the updated document. Request it too far in advance of expiry, and locums may not yet have the new document. Request closer to the date of expiry and busy locums still might be tempted to defer until the date itself, and then forget. Request at or after expiry, and the locum may already have lost bookings.
This is a major issue, consuming a considerable volume of agency time over the course of a year, and losing locums a lot of bookings.
LIMITED TRAVEL RADIUS
Locums are self-employed, and they’re in control of many aspects of their careers. However, in competitive areas, one of the key factors in maximising bookings is the distance over which a locum is prepared to travel. A relatively small increase in travel radius can open up a much wider range of booking opportunities for a locum pharmacist. Conversely, when locums limit their travel radius too severely, they’re likely to lose bookings.
The above three issues account for a truly huge number of lost bookings for UK locum pharmacists. All simple for a locum to remedy. But all far-reaching in their implications.
We’ve published a much more detailed post for newly qualified pharmacists interested in moving into locum work, documenting more potential stumbling blocks to a healthy timetable.