If you read our Three Common Ways Locum Pharmacists Lose Bookings post, you’ll know that we ranked a failure to provide up-to-date documentation (especially relating to accreditations) as a primary reason why agencies stop offering pharmacists work. But why is it so common that agency locums find themselves in such a situation?
One of the reasons behind the problem is that locums and agencies see the picture of accreditations differently. What we’d like to do in this post is to take you behind the scenes and illustrate how the issue of accreditations looks from the agency’s viewpoint…
Some of Team Locum‘s more experienced pharmacists have in excess of twenty professional accreditations, all kept rigorously up to date, by the locum, via his or her private profile on the Team Locum website. Newer, less experienced pharmacists are also very important to the agency, but for these locums, there are going to be some minimum requirements to observe…
One of the less obvious elements in determining the minimum requirements, is that they’re set by operational norms and needs, as well as by the law. Technically, professional accreditations for the locum pharmacist break down as follows…
- Legal requirements, without which a pharmacist cannot, under any circumstances, be booked.
- Operational/commercial requirements, which are not legally necessary for a pharmacist going out to work per se, but which are necessary for some aspects of pharmacy operation, and will therefore be insisted upon by many clients.
Whilst accreditations in the latter category may sound optional, in reality they can become essentials when a large enough proportion of clients insist on them.
For example, the EPS2 Smartcard is not a legal requirement for a locum pharmacist, but because it’s an operational requirement for so many agency clients, locums who don’t possess the card can only be offered a very limited range of bookings. In the light of this, there arises, for the agency, a question of whether it’s economically viable to register and/or retain locums without Smartcards.
Completing a locum registration to the standard clients require, including document checking, vetting, referencing, necessary communications with the locum, the provision of assistance, etc, takes the agency a considerable amount of time. That equates to a cost. An agency like Team Locum works in high volume, offering clients very modest booking fees. That’s fantastic for clients, and it’s fantastic for locums too, because a high volume stream of incoming bookings means more available work – more choice. But if an agency only earns a modest fee per booking, each locum registered will need to be compatible with a fair range of bookings. If most clients won’t accept the locum, there’s a strong chance that the agency will not recover the cost of registration.
Likewise, after a locum has entered the agency’s active (available for work) pool, his or her qualifications/eligibility must be monitored by the agency. Team Locum’s Registrations Team take care of this legal requirement, and they have to stay well ahead of the game. They need to assess in advance when accreditations are going to expire, and then get in touch with the relevant locums to alert them.
Again, there’s significant time investment in this process, and a resultant cost. The more locums in the active pool, the more monitoring work that’s required from the Team. So there’s actually a very real economy involved in retaining a locum in the active pool. Taking a locum out of the active pool and making them unavailable for work means their validity no longer needs to be monitored. It makes little difference timewise (and cost-wise) when this is only applied to one locum. But applied to, say, 500 or 1,000 locums, the impact is considerable.
The headline is that locums in the active pool must actually be active. Harsh as it sounds, if barely a client will accept the locum, then keeping the locum live, on the bookings system, with their documentation subject to legal/eligibility monitoring, is something the agency can’t justify. Consequently, a lack of accreditations such as the Smartcard, and Medicines Use Review, which are not a legal requirement for a pharmacist to practise per se, can still, in the end, prevent him/her from getting any agency work at all.
Here’s the status of the most commonly requested pharmacist accreditations, with some extra insight into how the agency must treat each one…
Legal requirement. All pharmacists working in the UK must have a current registration with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). And since a locum agency is required by law to verify that the pharmacist is eligible for work, they must obtain proof of GPhC registration.
GPhC registration information is public, but verifying a locum’s GPhC registration at the outset is not quite as simple for the agency as checking the public register. Because more than one person can have the same name, proper verification involves the locum supplying the agency with non-public proof of their GPhC registration. This is something only the registered pharmacist could access, and so it eliminates the chance of misidentification. The non-public proof is only necessary in the first instance. After that, the agency can monitor the locum’s GPhC registration using publicly available information.
Legal requirement. Indemnity insurance has to be renewed each year, and thus, each certificate of proof has an expiry date. Furthermore, professional indemnity verification is not in the public domain. So the locum pharmacist needs to supply proof of cover directly to a locum agency, in the form of the actual certificate.
However the locum pays for professional indemnity cover, the agency can only verify based on the certificate the pharmacist has supplied, and its expiry date. Even when the pharmacist has renewed the cover, if the locum agency hasn’t seen the new certificate, they must regard the indemnity as expired. Agencies must, by law, ensure that all staff they allocate for work, are eligible to do that work. Much as an agency will know that pharmacists are trustworthy people, without obtaining ongoing proof, they’re breaching the regulations. Specifically, the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.
So once an indemnity certificate submitted to the agency has expired, a locum pharmacist becomes ineligible for work through that agency. Failure to provide or update valid indemnity proof is one of the most common reasons why Team Locum pharmacists are removed from the active locum pool. Why indemnity and not GPhC? Because GPhC proof is public, and after initial agency registration, much easier for the agency to obtain and monitor.
MEDICINES USE REVIEW (MUR)
Operational/commercial requirement – in England and Wales. The Medicines Use Review service is of great value to the majority of pharmacies, and the community they serve. A pharmacist does not need to be qualified to provide MUR in order to practise as such, but if they can’t provide MUR, the majority of pharmacies will not consider booking them. This puts a non-MUR accredited locum pharmacist at an enormous disadvantage, and means that for the agency, the economy of registration and retention becomes prohibitive. For this reason, Team Locum hardwired the MUR certificate into its registration process some years ago. Without the certificate, a pharmacist is unable to complete Team Locum’s online registration process. MUR is another great example of an accreditation becoming so critical to the operation of pharmacies, that in practical terms it becomes as essential as a legally-required accreditation.
DISCLOSURE & BARRING SERVICES CLEARANCE (DBS)
The categorisation of DBS is more complex. It’s not a hard and fast legal requirement for pharmacists. But it may be a legal requirement in some situations a pharmacist is likely to encounter. Accordingly, the major pharmacies (who collectively provide a huge chunk of the work for agencies) will not generally want to risk accepting pharmacists who don’t have DBS clearance.
Such is the importance of DBS, that Team Locum took the step of removing all non-DBS-checked pharmacists from its active pool. Any inactive pharmacist wishing to re-join the active pool, must be DBS checked. Team Locum is, however, able to organise DBS checking for locums pharmacists who don’t already have it, and has offered this service from the moment DBS was introduced. You can find some details on our Disclosure & Barring Services page.
SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN & VULNERABLE ADULTS – LEVEL 2
In early 2017, the CPPE qualification ‘Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults Level 2′ also became an essential for Team Locum pharmacists, as major clients began setting dates beyond which they would insist on the accreditation. One of the reasons for clients’ insistence on the Safeguarding accreditation is that in order to qualify for their Quality Payment under the Pharmacy Quality Payments (PQP) Scheme, 80% or higher of their registered pharmacy professionals must hold it.
The Dementia Friends accreditation doesn’t take long to acquire, but it’s another extremely important addition to a locum pharmacist’s profile. As with Safeguarding, from early 2017, pharmacies began to insist on Dementia Friends in connection with The Pharmacy Quality Payments scheme.
One of the other pieces of documentation Team Locum has introduced for pharmacists, is called the Accreditation Permissions Form. This is a privacy-related document, which gives all pharmacists the control to specify, in advance, which clients they will permit to see their accreditations.
In the past, we would obtain consent for passing a pharmacist’s accreditation to a client on a case-by-case basis. When the client made the request, we’d consult the locum, and then, on condition that the locum agreed, the client could view the accreditation they’d requested. This is still the way it works with optical staff. However, the Team Locum website is specifically set up so that the locums themselves can show their accreditations to clients upon request.
Our locum app includes an accreditations page, with a download feature for each one of the locum’s accreditations. So if the locum is carrying a smartphone, she or he can simply click the download button, open the accreditation document, and verify to the client that they’re accredited. The locum is effectively bypassing the Team Locum office, and managing her/his own data protection arrangements.
However, what’s changed more recently with pharmacy is that clients have begun requesting proof of certain accreditations IN ADVANCE, FOR ALL LOCUMS. To supply the proof on that kind of scale, it became impractical for Team Locum to obtain pharmacy locum permission on a case by case basis, hence the introduction of the Permissions Form. Once the locum has completed and signed the form, Team Locum knows in advance which clients it can supply with accreditations, on request.
Team Locum pledges to treat all data respectfully. And indeed, almost all of our working locums have been very positive about completing and signing the form. It’s reassuring to know that an agency cares about privacy.
We’ve included, in our Newly Qualified Pharmacists post, more on some of the other accreditations locum pharmacists are likely to find useful. As always, you can contact us on 0121 451 2707 if you need to know more.