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The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has sought clarification from the NHS after a heath board in Scotland cancelled vaccination shifts of locum pharmacists without any notice.

Locums practising in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Heath Board area contacted the PDA this week to report that the board had unilaterally cancelled agreed shifts scheduled over the coming weeks.

According to the PDA, this action seems to have only been directed at pharmacists while other health professionals with similar contracts are continuing under the agreed terms.

It said communication from the NHS stated that “the sessional rate must only be offered to pharmacy contractors” which has meant that whilst locums will be paid for work done to date, any future booked sessions will be cancelled, directly impacting their income.

The letter that locums received from the NHS claims that “various stakeholders” will be involved in the discussion as to what happens next.

It further added, “the sessional rate (£231/3.5 hours) must only be offered to pharmacy contractors, the entity noted on the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Pharmaceutical List. The pharmacy contractors are uniquely placed to balance participation in the vaccination programme with ensuring patients have continued access to the essential pharmaceutical care services and their own business needs.”

“If you have recently completed a Covid-vaccination shift within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, you will be reimbursed using the current payment mechanism. If you have an upcoming shift, this will, unfortunately, be cancelled (this will not have any detrimental effect on your record).

The PDA has encouraged all locums to be clear on their rights and responsibilities regarding cancellation clauses in contracts they agree to, which are also binding on the employer.

Paul Day, PDA director, said: “Locum pharmacists have entered into these contracts in good faith to support the Covid Vaccination program and it is disappointing to hear from members that their shifts are being cancelled without notice.  Pharmacists will have turned down other work to support this service and may not now be able to recoup their losses.”

The association has asked its affected members to contact the PDA service centre to log their case and receive advice based on their individual contract to provide vaccination services.

Day concluded: “This development has caused Scottish pharmacists significant concern and the PDA is raising the issue directly with the Health Board and Scottish Government. For too long the voice of the individual pharmacist in Scotland has not been heard at government level and as the largest representative body for pharmacists, the PDA is seeking to redress that imbalance.”

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