A Practical Guide to Working as a UK Locum Community Pharmacist

First locum shift? Follow these tips to avoid looking like a lamb in the headlights.

Han Cao


Being a locum pharmacist can be pretty difficult. Not that you’ll get much empathy from your employer (who thinks you are purely there for financial gain), or the patients (who wonder why you constantly look lost).

The first few locum shifts you do can be challenging, stressful and chaotic. This is not to put you off locuming. I pick up the odd locum shift as I enjoy the change of environment from my normal working environment in hospital pharmacy. Plus, the pay is half-decent.

I assume you have at least a vague idea of what a locum does. If not, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has a wealth of information on pharmacy services, NHS smartcards and the dispensing process.

I also assume you have done the ‘administration’ tasks — such as sorting out your smartcard and completing the mandatory CPPE modules. If not, complete those tasks first. You cannot locum without completing certain modules.

This advice applies only to UK community locum pharmacists, not hospital locums.

I’m here to provide pragmatic advice, not generic advice e.g. make sure to get there on time.

The aim of this blog is simple: to help you avoid looking like a lamb to the slaughter on your first locum shift.

Don’t let your first shift put you off though. Like most things, it gets easier with time.


Groundwork needs to be done before the locum shift. Don’t turn up and expect to be spoonfed. As a minimum, I would bring a pen, smartcard and Responsible Pharmacist notice (laminate it so you can re-use it for your next locum shift rather than finding a crummy piece of paper scrunched up at the bottom of your bag — professionalism counts).

I would strongly recommend you bring some resources. These include the free electronic app version of the British National Formulary (BNF) downloaded onto your phone, a copy of Medicines, Ethics and Practice (MEP) for prescription legalities and a couple of your own resources. For example, I…



Han Cao

Storyteller, Pharmacist, Violinist. Just your regular guy fumbling through life.