The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has accused Tesco of contacting some locum pharmacists to demand they either accept lower rates for work they have already contracted with the company, or the shift will be cancelled.

The PDA has published what it said were communications from Tesco referring to new wage rates for locums applying to shifts already booked. However, as locums are self-employed, it said they should therefore be able to negotiate rates with their clients as with any other independent supplier.

‘Using terminology such as “wage rates” is more indicative of an employer-employee relationship and could undermine the status of the locum market in community pharmacy,’ said the organisation.

Tesco has been contacted for comment.

The Pharmacist reported on 20 July that the PDA had written to pharmacy and healthcare leaders demanding action be taken over what it described as ‘unnecessary’ pharmacy closures by large multiples.

It claimed operators were cancelling locums who did not accept attempts to reduce pre-agreed rates but were blaming staff shortages when communicating subsequent pharmacy closures to the public.

The PDA said there was an ‘epidemic of avoidable community pharmacy closures’ that was ‘truly shocking’.

Mark Koziol, PDA chairman, said operators claiming shortages were to blame for closures is ‘clearly untrue’ as the closures ‘appear to be caused by commercial considerations’.

However, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said in an open letter published on Wednesday (20 July) that pharmacies are not ‘immune’ to recruitment pressures in healthcare.

The CCA continued: ‘To accuse some pharmacy businesses of choosing to act with impunity, to restrict patients’ access to NHS funded services is highly inflammatory.  The truth of the matter is that all pharmacy businesses are reporting that they are struggling to find the registered professionals needed to open their pharmacies.’

And in February this year, the National Pharmacy Association called on NHS England to provide an uplift in the pharmaceutical services global sum as cost pressures in community pharmacy increase.