Locum pharmacists are earning around 14% more than last year, according to a study by shift booking platform Locate a Locum, which suggested the rise was largely due to supply and demand.

The platform analysed more than 30,000 locum pharmacy shifts booked on Locate a Locum – a tool to help health organisations employ locum healthcare workers - between 1 April and 30 June 2022, and compared pay rates with the same period in 2021.

The platform does not set rates but records the rate agreed directly between the pharmacist and the locum at the time.

The study found that on average, locum pharmacists across the UK in 2022 were paid around £37.49 per hour – a rise of £4.81, or 14% from last year’s average.

The study also identified regional differences in the rate of locum pay. Cities in Scotland topped the list, with locums in Inverness (£54.11), Dumfries (£51.34), Perth (£49.30) and Dundee (£49.17) earning the highest rates.

In contrast, the lowest average hourly rate was found in Derry/Londonderry (£26.61), followed by Belfast (£28.32), Leicester (£28.24) and London (£31.23).

Some areas have seen a sharper increase than others: in Wales, the average rate rose by 30% - from £28.72 in 2021 to £38.93 and in Northern Ireland, rates rose by 25%, bringing the national average up to £27.47.

In England, rates rose by 12%, bringing the national average up to £36.95, and In Scotland, rates rose by an average of 9%, bringing the national average up to £48.86.

Locate a Locum suggested that the most significant contributing factor to rising rates was supply and demand, with higher average market rates in areas which have a low volume of locum pharmacists.

It also said that alternatives to community pharmacy, such as GP surgeries, clinical roles and vaccination services also influenced the rise in locum rates.

Locate a Locum said that it expected the trend to continue into 2023. However, it listed several factors that might impact locum rates and potentially alter this trend, such as post-Covid events, like an increase or decrease in the vaccination programme, or more supply, with newly qualified pharmacists joining the workforce.

In August, The Pharmacist spoke to community pharmacists who said that staff shortages and high locum rates were leaving staff at risk of burnout.

Earlier this summer, Tesco was accused of asking locum pharmacists to reduce agreed rates or lose their shift.