In the UK, booking locum pharmacists has been made increasingly simple and painless as locum agencies have grown in size and number. The locum business is highly competitive for the agencies involved, and those at the top of the tree understand that the key to success is to provide the best, most professional service.
What if you’re a completely new client? You’ve never used locums before, but you either know that you’re going to need one, or feel that you might? How do you get started? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at in this post.
Even if you’re not sure whether you’ll ever need a locum, it’s a really great idea to ensure that your pharmacy is signed up with a good agency. A professional locum agency will only make a charge when you actually book a locum, so signing up and being prepared for the worst is almost like holding a free insurance policy. If you find yourself without locum pharmacists at short or zero notice, a well-established locum agency with a large base of locums can be an invaluable resource.
YOUR INITIAL APPROACH
When you approach a reputable agency as a new client, you’ll first be asked a few questions regarding your needs. Unless your needs change, you’ll only need to go through this once.
Here are a couple of example questions, similar to those asked by Team Locum – the biggest agency in the UK for locum phamacists…
Which accreditations will the pharmacist need to properly fulfil the role? All pharmacists supplied by Team Locum will obviously be GPhC registered, and will be verified as holders of professional indemnity cover. They’ll also be qualified to provide the Medicines Use Review service. But you may, for example, also need your locum pharmacists to possess a Smartcard which can access the Electronic Prescription Service at your location. Maybe they’ll also need a Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults Level 2 qualification, and you’ll require them to be DBS checked?
Because so many clients across the market have these requirements, the great majority of pharmacists working through Team Locum ensure that they have all of the above bases covered. Some Team Locum pharmacists hold a wealth of accreditations allowing them to provide a very wide range of specialist services. So if, for instance, you also require your pharmacist to provide EHC, or perform Repeat Dispensing, just specify your requirements. The agency will restrict your cover to locums who meet them.
How busy is your environment? This question seeks to further narrow down the pool of pharmacists who would be suitable to cover your store or establishment. Team Locum has an enormous base of locum pharmacists, experienced in different types of environment.
Some locums are used to offering a highly personalised service in smaller and less busy pharmacies. Meanwhile, others are used to working at pace in larger and very busy environments. Once the Bookings Team have a mental picture of your needs, they can set the parameters which will always dictate which locums are compatible with your bookings.
Your answers to these questions don’t affect the booking fee in any way, although locum pharmacists are self-employed, and at liberty to set a minimum hourly rate. It may be that a very experienced pharmacist with a huge range of accreditations will set their minimum higher than someone with less experience and professional certification.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once you’ve outlined your requirements, the likelihood is that you’ll be asked to read and sign the agency’s Terms of Business. Once that’s done, you’re officially a client, and you’re ready to call upon the agency at any time.
Don’t forget, there’s no cost involved in getting your pharmacy to this stage.
If you don’t ever need a locum, you’ve lost nothing. But if you do need a locum in an emergency, it’s great to be in a position where you can simply call someone – outside office hours if necessary – and get a pharmacist on their way. We outlined how Team Locum delivers its legendary emergency service in How a Top Agency Provides Emergency Locum Cover, but in order to take full advantage of that vital, super-quick service, a pharmacy would need to be an existing client.
BOOKING THE LOCUM
There are various ways in which Team Locum’s clients make bookings.
The most obvious is by phone. The client simply dials 0121 451 2707, and specifies the date(s), times, their proposed rate, the lunch break arrangements, etc. Calling by phone is a typical choice for new or newer clients. It allows them to get to know the Bookings Team, as well as being a reassuring means of communication.
Some clients use the Team Locum Client App to secure their cover. There are lots of advantages to this. The Client App provides a convenient and quick means to request locums (particularly for those needing to arrange multiple bookings). But other benefits of the App include its instant connectivity with the locums themselves. When a client adds a booking to the Client App, that booking will automatically display to locums using the Locum App. Right round the clock, locums are able to apply for the booking. That potentially means a wider choice of locums for the client.
It’s also often the case when a larger client has a significant number of bookings to fill, they’ll email them in list form to [email protected].
Whichever method the client uses, the Bookings Team will spring into action without delay. Don’t worry, you’ll be advised who the proposed locum is before anything is finalised.
ARE THERE ANY COMPLICATIONS?
Gladly, complications are very unlikely. A good locum agency will properly vet its pharmacists, insisting on at least two professional, verified, and fully up-to-date references. It will also have built up a very reliable base of working locums. We looked at how the pool of locums is refined in the Emergency Locum Cover post. Team Locum also has processes which encourage clients to provide feedback on the locums they book, and this has helped keep quality at premium levels – both in the short and in the long term.
WHAT CHARGES DO I NEED TO CONSIDER?
You’d be paying the locum directly. Normally, the locum will simply invoice you once she/he has completed the booking.
The general trends for hourly locum rates vary from region to region, but the locum agency will be able to give you an idea of locums’ typical expectations for your district when you call. You will, of course, be at liberty to specify your own rate. However, locum cover, as a market, is heavily influenced by what other pharmacies are paying. A rate below the regional/seasonal average would be less likely to attract a locum – not likely at all if significantly below.
Team Locum will always be frank about the viability of your rate. The typical market rates will remain the same whichever agency you choose, because they’re governed by the requirements of locums. Your direct payment to the locum would include any service incentives or expenses you choose to offer.
The only other cost you should need to consider is agency’s booking fee. This is a set charge per daily booking, for which the agency will invoice you separately after the arrangement has been fulfilled. A big agency like Team Locum fills masses of bookings each day. That economy of scale keeps the booking fee at a very modest level. If you’ve never used a locum before, it may well cost less than you imagined, and it’ll almost certainly be easier than you thought.
Team Locum’s pharmacy clients comprise all types of establishment, from the huge household-brand chains, through hospitals, to small but vital independent stores – and almost all bookings are repeat business. Most clients find booking a locum a preferred and obvious option after using the service once. It’s cost-effective, it’s simple, and the agency does all the vetting, checking and referencing.
It should also be stressed that there are no surprise bills. Team Locum rigidly adheres to the booking fees denoted in the Terms of Business (normally one rate for advance bookings and another for emergencies). And regardless of how many additional benefits the pharmacist can provide, there are no hidden extras.
To sum up, then, there are just two costs to consider…
- A sum paid directly to the locum for services rendered (you’d include any additional service incentives and/or expenses you may wish to offer in this payment).
- A modest booking fee paid directly to the agency.
NEED TO KNOW MORE?
The information in this post should give you a sense of the general system of booking locum pharmacists through a professional agency. If you’d like a member of our friendly Bookings Team to answer additional questions, and/or organise hassle-free cover for your pharmacy, you can reach them on 0121 451 2707.