With Pharmacy Voice now closed, Claire Ward takes time to reflect on its remarkable list of achievements


As this is my last column as chair of Pharmacy Voice, I thought it appropriate to mark some of the achievements of the team that I have been privileged to be part of for two years. If this were a grave, I might carve them in stone, but ICP will have to be a suitable replacement to ensure that those for whom Pharmacy Voice was never a worthy organisation do not succeed in erasing its successes from history.

So here are some of the organisation’s highlights:

• Pharmacy Voice (PV) published the first contextualised vision for community pharmacy, the ‘Blueprint for Better Care’. This was the first example of how community pharmacy could contribute across a patient care pathway, an approach later tested in the ‘Community Pharmacy Future’ work and built upon in the ‘Community Pharmacy Forward View’ five years later

• PV developed the first national audits of community pharmacy practice. The first of these captured for the first time at scale community pharmacy’s life-saving and life affirming contributions to care (44,000 people a year saved from fatal or significant misadventure). Successive audits were completed by increasing numbers of pharmacies – in excess of 50 per cent of all community pharmacies in England took part in the latter ones

• It published the first comprehensive road map for community pharmacy IT, building on an inclusive approach that has brought systems suppliers into the heart of the discussion after some years in glorious isolation. This inclusive approach gained traction with HSCIC (now NHS Digital), such that the Pharmacy Voice IT Group, with its operational focus, was seen as a fundamental element of the pharmacy IT landscape

• PV published a research framework which, for the first time for researchers A lasting legacy and research funders, set out the research questions for which the sector wanted answers. This led to the establishment of the ad hoc Research Advisory Group, a joint group with the RPS

• Campaigning work around GPhC inspections prompted changes in the inspection regime, as well as greater transparency in how ratings are achieved

• For two years, PV’s ‘Treat Yourself Better’ campaign, run jointly with the consumer medicines industry body PAGB, focused the public on community pharmacy and self care as the answer to urgent care needs around common Winter conditions. The campaign’s success led to it being formally folded into the government’s ‘Stay Well’ campaigns. Relationships with Public Health England’s campaign team were markedly enhanced – so much so that pharmacy is now fundamentally plugged into all future public health activity

• Since 2014, PV’s modest ‘Dispensing Health’ campaign programme has provided a focus for national media interest in community pharmacy as an issue. The first of its well-researched reports was a model launch, making the lead article on The Times health page, a Times editorial, the first letter on the letters’ page, and even the cartoon on the front cover, all focusing on how community pharmacy was the answer to the nation’s growing health problems

• The organisation contributed to the design of Health Education England (HEE)’s programme of change around pre-registration pharmacy graduates, informed by the very best practice in community pharmacy. Engagement was such that the community pharmacy sector has signed up in huge numbers to the pre-registration recruitment programme, one year ahead of schedule, and to a level way in excess of HEE expectations

• The award winning Pharmacy Voice patient safety programme has, for the past three years, brought together community pharmacy’s medication safety officers to share, learn, advise and publish materials designed to improve safety across the community pharmacy network. The group’s circular logo, which captures five stages of quality improvement, was recently adopted by the RPS as part of its quality improvement work

• Pharmacy Voice was the instigator and lead organisation that created the ‘Community Pharmacy Forward View’. Originally designed as an update to the first ‘Blueprint’ vision, the government’s ‘2016/17 and Beyond’ consultation prompted the work to be turned into a cross-sector piece of rapid policy work, working with PSNC and with the support of the RPS.

Relationships matter
Leaders may get a high profile from time to time, but it’s the work and relationships built behind the scenes that create the right platform for change and development. The sector will need these relationships in the future. A real success of Pharmacy Voice was its dedicated, expert team, created to a specific organisational design, with expertise and experience unparallelled in any pharmacy organisation. They served community pharmacy well. I hope what lies ahead builds on and does not destroy the foundations they have laid.

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