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Locum pharmacists

Locum pharmacists told not taking lunch will boost their chances of work

A pharmacy locum agency is telling pharmacy staff that they have a greater chance of getting shifts if they are willing to work through their lunch breaks, the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) has claimed.

The PDA said the agency, which it declined to name publicly, uses an online diary system that allows locums to specify their availability. The system states that “lunch preferences reduce the number of vacancies offered”.

Paul Day, national officer of the PDA, said this implied that those who specify that they want to have a break may not get offered employment.

“There are dozens of locum agencies and we have heard of such practices before anecdotally, but this is the first time we have seen it written down in this way on a website,” he said.

“The issue here is not just the agency which is doing this but that it is the pharmacy clients’ request. They want locums who don’t take the breaks and lunch breaks they are legally entitled to.”

Day said pharmacists not getting enough rest was not only against the law, but also a risk to patient safety.

“A pharmacist who is not rested is more likely to make mistakes than one who is,” he said.

The PDA launched its Safer Pharmacies Charter at the end of 2017. It includes seven commitments, one of which is adequate rest, which it says will improve the safety and care of patients and improve working conditions for pharmacists.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204747

Readers' comments (2)

  • Michael Achiampong

    Only this week, I have had the unexpected luxury of a one hour lunch break - unpaid, of course! However, I felt so much more alert and productive for the subsequent 2pm-6pm shift.
    In marked contrast, I've also worked as a locum where the pharmacy does not routinely close for a break; and the difference in my productivity levels is quite marked.
    The happy medium is a half-hour lunch break to get fresh air, food and drink; check my to-do list and subconsciously problem solve issues for the remainder of the day/next day etc.

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  • How easy it is to be misunderstood!
    What we said was
    • if you insist on not having a lunch break or
    • If you insist on having a lunch break
    In either case you will receive less offers than if you say you don’t mind. Its simple logic: some pharmacies close for lunch and some don’t.
    We accept that the wording is imprecise, so we have added the word "fixed" to clarify that we mean when the branch actually closes.
    We have updated our website with this advice - "It is normal practice, where shops don't close, for the locum to take a break to eat lunch. You should agree the timing and duration of this with the pharmacy staff when you arrive"
    We think that to say about our website: ”this implied that those who specify that they want to have a break may not get offered employment” is just over simplistic. If there is an issue about lunch breaks in locum pharmacy, we think it’s due to a lack of communication.
    Amy Banks
    Pharmaseekers Ltd

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