GOC statement clarification
16th June 2020
Due to the confusion over the GOC guidelines. We have written a letter to the GOC to seek clarification on your behalf.
We have included the letter below:
Thank you for all your help and guidance throughout this pandemic.
We have been contacted by several of our members in regards to the “GOC statement and FAQs on reopening optical practices during the COVID-19 emergency”.
We would like to seek clarification on statement 4.
“In our view this means that registrants are able to deliver private eye care including private sight tests / eye examinations and aftercare appointments.”
Does this guidance refer to 15th June onwards or does this imply that private sight tests / eye examinations could have been performed during lock down?
Your help in this matter will be much appreciated by our members. Due to the interests of all in this sector, we are making this letter public.
We hope to hear from you soon.”
We will inform of you as soon as we receive a response.
12th June 2020
Whilst optometrists salaries and locum rates have been falling rapidly; we are disgusted to see that some business owners have taken to the internet and social media to bash locums even further by calling them “greedy” for asking for a fair remuneration for their services. This is a further stab in the back to all locum optometrists who have played a key role in helping these businesses grow and prosper. This is completely unprofessional and unacceptable behavior.
The irony of these business owners to call locums “greedy” at a time when they have opportunistically and simultaneously reduced locum rates, weeks before lock down and whilst clinics were running as at normal capacities. At a time when boastful videos are released on the internet showing the amount of money, some are making whilst disregarding public safety and government guidelines. At a time when some business owners are boasting in private to their friends and colleagues that their balance sheets have “never looked so good”, all whilst giving the impression to locums that the industry is in imminent demise. They are calling locums “greedy”?
Most locums now believe that the multiples appear to be creating fictitious downturn in order to gain access to cheap locum labour.
Why some businesses are not as badly affected as they make out
Salaries are usually the highest cost to businesses. As most of their staff have been put on furlough, 80% of their salaries are being paid by the government and they are still in receipt of the average NHS GOS payments, they have access to government grants for business on the high street, council tax is frozen etc.
There is often mention of “Fixed costs” relating to the businesses however these business owners fail to acknowledge that locums have “fixed costs” too such as mortgages etc but are expected to reduce their rates so corporates can enjoy the same level of profit.
Some of these companies have made millions and even billions in revenues in recent years. They have been able to offer products and services such as eye examinations for free. Simply all they now have to do is charge for them products and services so there is plenty of scope for them to recoup any lost profit and to pay locum optometrists fairly.
There is an enormous back log of eye examinations and we now know the “demand is there” so these companies have “nothing to be afraid of” when they return to business. Also many businesses are looking to increase their opening hours to enable them to see more patients.
Less volume doesn’t mean a loss in profits
As most clinics are often filled with patients that don’t need to be there (often people are booked in just to “fill the clinic”); Practices will have to be more selective about who they book. Maybe they will be less inclined to drag in a random passerby. Often daily targets are met with only a handful of customers.
Why locum optometrist are worth much more than £300/day!
Unknown to most locums, they have been working at discounted rates for years. Only after multiples dropped the daily rates many locums have now awakened to the fact that they have actually been undervaluing their services for some time as they have failed to adjust for inflation and some have been charging significantly below their colleagues.
Inflation is the increase in cost of living as the cost of goods and services rise over time. For example you would pay a lot more for a house now then you would have done for the same house back in 2000. Despite this locum rates have stayed fairly stagnant until recent years.
Locum optometrists are first and foremost healthcare professionals and most are not well versed when it comes to matters relating to business as their university education often lacks business and negotiation skills. Therefore many often are not confident in negotiating a higher rate and would accept a lower rate due to this lack of confidence. As a result most were receiving the same rate that was available back in the early 2000’s.
Assuming that £250 was the average daily rate in 2000; after taking into account inflation over the past 20 years, this value should now be around £423.97. Despite benefiting from theses discounted rates companies appeared to be actively seeking to reduce locum rates even further. Previously these rate reductions attempts went largely under the radar as the reductions were modest compared to the drop in rates locums are facing today.
Over supply or under supply – Which is it?
It really depends on what outcome the corporates are trying to achieve. In relation to opening more universities and trailblazing apprenticeship schemes there is apparently an “under supply” of optometrists. However when it comes to paying salaries and locum rates, optometrists are then informed there is an “over supply” and due to “supply and demand” this gives them justification for offering insulting locum rates.
Some corporations are enticing locums with more work in the future or a promise that the rates will rise in “better times”. Anyone who has asked for a modest raise in the past knows this is no mean feat. Thankfully most locums have become aware of their strategies and are failing to accept the poor rates.
Why there will be a greater demand for locums
Aside from the enormous back log of eye examinations. If a resident optometrist tests positive for COVID they could be in isolation between 7-14 days. Some locum or resident optometrists may decide not to return to work after lock down due to risk of contracting the virus or to shield a family member in their household. A significant no. have taken alternative job roles which they are happy with and may not return. Also locum or resident optometrists may decide to do fewer days to reduce exposure to the virus.
It’s great to see that finally locums have awoken and avoided sleep walking into extinction. But it’s important to emphasise that it’s down to each locum to charge appropriately for their services and to understand that they are not obliged to take lower rates and also that they are not alone. All locums can access support at www.thelocumunion.com.
Finally we have grown to over 910 members. The message is finally getting out there. Thank you all for signing up. But we still need to grow further and can’t do it without you. So please make sure you get your friends/colleagues to register. Remember we need to get the message to all the locums for it to be effective.
PS We have had a positive response from AOP to release a webinar/article on negotiating locum rates, so look out for that!
Viral Video – Showing a Specsavers Store
6th June 2020
We believe it’s important to give you our thoughts on a viral video that appears to show a Specsavers store performing business as usual, despite government guidelines. We welcomed the widespread condemnation of this video. However in spite of the lack of regard for public safety and government guidelines; we believe it’s a great video as it illustrates everything that is wrong with optometry today; Profits before public, patient and staff safety.
The video shows a boastful member of staff claiming that they have made £1400 in just 4 hours, that the “demand is there” and they are now trading 7 days.
This is great news for locum optometrists as they needn’t worry about having to accept lower rates due to a mythical downturn. Clearly the optical industry will be booming once the doors officially open.
The video also mentions “growth” which is quite an important concept which most locums fail to consider. You are individual businesses and you should be “growing” year on year. You can achieve growth in many ways but the easiest way is to charge an increased rate. So as the companies that hire you grow, you also grow alongside them. But please, don’t follow the gentleman in the videos example in which he describes how he “stole” a customer from one of his competitors in search of growth.
The general consensus amongst locums appears to be that the rates should increase due to the risk now associated with the carrying out the role and with increased demand due to the immense backlog of eye examinations. Most locums are now seeking to raise their fee by 50%. This would equate to approximately £450 per day. We have established that many locums were obtaining this rate pre COVID and there is no reason why this trend should not continue.
Some other great news, we have grown to over 810 members. The message is finally getting out there. Thank you all for signing up. But we still need to grow further and can’t do it without you. So please make sure you get your friends/colleagues to register. Remember we need to get the message to all the locums for it to be effective.
We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel so keep on pushing!
Locum Rates drop over 50%
5th June 2020
Thank you to everyone that has signed up to the locum union. This is a great step in the right direction! We now have over 770 locums and are growing each day!
But we still need your help to grow. Our aim is to have every locum on board. So make sure you forward this message via email and social media to every optometrist you know!
Why join and forward this message?
By making sure every locum registers this ensures we can get our message out to everyone. The more locums we get the message to the greater the impact will be.
How will a simple email/forum website help?
Awareness! As more locums become aware, more have decided to transition to other jobs roles instead of taking these low rates. The optical industry will need to bring about changes eg increased rates to re-attract the workforce it has now alienated.
Will this really work?
Yes, often the simplest solutions are the most effective. Let’s say for example the average clinic generates £1000 and say 1000 locums no longer work as optometrists due to poor rates that would equate to £1,000,000 in lost revenue in just a single day, £7 million in a week, and £21 million in a month etc. If this doesn’t bring about change, what will?
But don’t we need a professional body to represent us?
No! As locums you are your own little businesses. So it’s a business to business transaction. Nobody can force you to take a clinic at a low rate. You can negotiate and set your own rate and we would strongly encourage you to do so.
What is a reasonable fee?
When we polled our members we found that the average fee was £300. We would expect this to rise post COVID due to the increased risk involved in the job role. Other occupations, insurance companies etc all increase their rates in relation to risk. This is not an unusual practice so get used to asking for more should you need to.
Do locums/optometrists need to take a pay cut to allow the industry to recover?
No, unless you are feeling charitable. Our salaries/rates are not to act as a buffer so that large companies can maintain their profits. You won’t be paying 50% less on your mortgage or car payments etc so don’t expect to take 50% less.
Why are our salaries/rates the first to be affected?
Companies clearly don’t value the optometrist workforce and haven’t done for some time. An example of this is shown by the erosion of salaries and rates overtime despite there being an apparent a “shortage” of optometrists. They are clearly under the illusion that optometrists are overpaid and wouldn’t mind a cut in salary. Why else are only optometrists salaries affected. If it’s windy outside they would probably expect the optometrist to take a 10% cut. Unless you stand up for yourselves the industry will continue to undermine you.
But they say they can’t afford to pay the salary/rate.
Then quite simply they should charge an appropriate fee for the eye test and spectacles. As most people consider the eyes to be the most important part of the body it is not unreasonable to request an appropriate fee that reflects the actual cost of services provided. This should be the “new norm” rather than dipping into optometrist salaries/rates to pick up the slack.
Supply and demand
You often hear business owners argue it’s all to do with “supply and demand”, as there is no demand for locums hence the reduced rate by 50%. Well how do they expect to deal with the backlog of eye examinations once the lock down is over? The demand for locums will skyrocket. Will they be expecting us to increase our rates by 50% in turn? It works both ways and that is something that is often forgotten.
Awakening of the sleeping giant
It’s great to see so many groups start on social media. This shows that locums have finally awoken from their slumber. We encourage you to join as many groups as you wish as we are all working towards the same goals. Having smaller social media groups is fantastic way of educating your colleagues.
However we would still encourage you to ask your friends/colleagues to register on the locum union as many of these groups gather hundreds of messages and often lose sight of what they started for; this results in people getting overwhelmed with messages and losing interest.
We are all living in difficult times but please be mindful and not undercut your colleagues in the hopes of landing work in the future. Remember in doing so you are undermining not only yourself and others but destroying this rewarding career for the future professionals.
Remember we are stronger together, so forward this to friends/colleagues and register at www.thelocumunion.com
The Locum Rate Pandemic
29th May 2020
As Locum Optometrists we have suffered two pandemics, COVID -19 and a viral drop in our locum rates. The locum rate drop spread much more contagiously than COVID-19 as locum rates were slashed greater than 50% overnight. Unfortunately, locums hadn’t had there preparedness meeting (similar to Event 201) and were caught with their pants down yet again despite repeated calls by many groups on social media like OPG, locum union etc to unite.
Multiples rear their ugly heads
We find ourselves here once again being stomped on by big corporations. Most of our members are probably more worried about the future impact of reduced locum rates than COVID -19. Words cannot describe the opportunistic nature of these multiples. It is no different to those who were buying masks and selling them at extortionate prices. There is absolutely no justification for these rate drops. Rates should be paid for the expertise and professionalism of an optometrist not the profitability of a clinic. Free eye test, free 2nd pairs, half price specs is there any wonder why there is “no budget” to pay for an optometrist and they have the audacity to turn around and say we are not hitting our target due to the strength of recommendations. The only weakness here is their business strategy.
What should locums do?
Sit back, relax, take up a hobby, second job (e.g. NHS contact tracing) and do further training etc. There will be an enormous backlog of eye examinations multiples will not be able to cope with the demand and will be desperate to run more clinics. Due to sanitising procedures carried out between patients, eye examination times will be inevitably longer. This means the number of eye tests per clinic will reduce, more clinics will need to be run to maintain profitability.Therefore the demand for locums will rise.
But I have a mortgage, bills, kids etc. What should I do?
It’s a difficult time for everyone. We need to ride the storm. Make sure you have looked into options such as furlough and benefits (e.g. tax credits) etc. Log onto the locum union see what others are doing, collaborate and share ideas. There are lots of options it’s about finding the right one for you. Remember as long as there are eyes there will always be eye examinations so just hang tight for now.
What shouldn’t locums do?
Accept these reduced rates. Don’t justify it to yourself, “I’ll only be seeing a handful of emergency patients etc” – NO! We ALL need to social distance ourselves from the multiples for a while. Until they recover from this rate dropping virus. Is it really that necessary, you risk not only yourself but also family and friends for such pittance? Being on a ventilator is no joke! There are other jobs that pay more with less risk. Once the multiples have snagged you for less than the cost of a bricklayer, good luck trying to get a rise in the future. Don’t be tempted to take a ‘COVID-19 salaried’ permanent position otherwise we will never recover from this pandemic.
Pass the message on
DO forward this to ALL the locums and residents you know. Go through your contacts and make sure this gets to every optometrist now before you forget, this doesn’t take long. There is little point in a handful of locums refusing to work at lower rates, for this to be effective we need most locums to be on board. By getting the message out there you are not only helping yourself but the wider locum community. Think of it as your good deed for optometry today. Feel free to copy and paste this message onto social media Facebook, Instagram, telegram and WhatsApp etc also.
Visit us frequently
Bookmark www.thelocumunion.com and make a habit to visit the website daily to keep up to date. Don’t just read other people’s comments and leave as this is NOT a blog. Please do put your own thoughts down, even if it’s to say you agree with the posted messages. This will show support to the original poster and it will build a sense of community inspiring others to join and get involved. The more people we have the less likely individuals will give in to multiples.
Please remember YOU are NOT alone thousands of locums and people in general are in this or a much worse position. Above all, the most important things to consider are your health and mental wellbeing. Please don’t suffer in isolation there are many platforms and people to talk to for example the Locum union, AOP helpline, OPG etc. Feel free to vent and talk about ANYTHING on the locum union website, just create your topic and let people add to it.
We are all intelligent gifted people when we combine our minds we are better than any think tank or corporation. So it is vital you share your thoughts. There is no such thing as a silly comment. ALL views should be respected. There is always something we can learn from each other. So please do share your experience, expertise and respect each other.
Now is the time we all unite! Residents won’t be immune from this either so let’s develop the vaccine to our pandemic together!
20th November 2019
The locum union has been contacted by multiple optometrists concerning the impact of an apprenticeship scheme on the future of optometrist.
Below is a link to a petition which has over 7000 signatures.
The number of signatures clearly shows that most optometrists feel strongly about this. The main points highlighted from the petition are:
- Optometrists feel there is no shortage of optometrists so there is no need to lower the barrier to entry.
- Allowing apprenticeships would lower public perception of optometrist even further.
- There is already increased amount of universities offering optometry courses across the country.
- Optometrist feel that the motivation for this apprenticeship is merely to profit from lower salaries or increased membership subscriptions.
This is appears to be a wider issue of degradation of optometry over time.
The Locum union invites all optometrist (not just locums) to join the discussion on protecting the profession at the www.thelocumunion.com
Proactively deal with:
We all know what the problems lets work together on the solutions.
The Locum Union Android App has Launched!
We are pleased to inform you that we have released The Locum Union App into the Android play store.
- Makes it easier to access the website.
- Stay Logged in.
To download click here or search The Locum Union in the Play Store.
P.S.We will be adding more features in the near future and also releasing an Apple App too!
Boots Opticians is Listening!
25th May 2014
Boots Opticians have been holding feedback sessions with a selection of locums over the past couple of weeks. They have listened to the feedback and have made some changes to how they operate. Now locums are able to use their mobile phones in all stores for business use. This is great news for locums. Boots Opticians has also increased locum rates in certain regions. Hats off to Boots opticians. Let’s hope they listen to the feedback about the uniform also!!!