Leadership commission lacks transparency and makes slow progress
By Neil Trainis
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s chief executive Paul Bennett and president Claire Anderson have accused the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership of lacking transparency and making slow progress in pushing ahead with proposals that were published seven months ago.
In a joint statement released yesterday, Bennett and Anderson said they were frustrated and growing increasingly impatient by the Commission’s lack of “meaningful progress” on improving leadership in pharmacy. The pair also claimed the Commission’s “deliberations” were “opaque as well as slow.”
In February, the Commission published five broad recommendations around; leadership, policy and professionalism; regulatory support; regional, country and international relations and engagement; the scope of practice for future pharmacy professionals; and professional education and training.
Under the first recommendation, a Pharmacy Leadership Council, which would include professional pharmacy leadership bodies such as the RPS and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, would head up the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
The Council will have an independent chair but Bennett and Anderson claimed the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers, who are leading the search, refused to allow the RPS to be involved in the selection process and insisted their decision did “not inspire confidence nor does it foster a collaborative spirit.”
Bennett and Anderson also said RPS members had a right to “see what the four CPhOs are planning and constructing so that they can decide for themselves whether it is the right direction” and determine if the recommendations are “supported and resourced in a fair and effective way.”
The pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien revealed in parliament this week that the Commission’s costs, which are being funded by the offices of the chief pharmaceutical officers, came to £87,745.
Insisting the RPS engaged thoroughly with the Commission during its call for evidence, which had “not always been easy,” Bennett and Anderson said: “We have real concerns that this is not being managed with sufficient transparency, speed or care for it to be successful and provide what the profession and the public would expect, rather than what agents of government might prefer.”
The pair conceded the RPS was “not perfect” and needed “to be more transparent and accountable” to its members and admitted its constitution and governance needed “modernising” but said it was “making progress.”
However, they expressed concern that the government was taking a grip on pharmacy leadership which they insisted must come from within the profession.
“We are especially concerned that independence is at risk. No other professional leadership organisations are controlled by or beholden to government or the NHS,” Bennett and Anderson said.
“It would be a startling and deeply troubling departure for that to happen in pharmacy. Yet that is the risk our profession is facing. Leadership must be from the professions, for the professions and for the ultimate good of the public. We do not want the proposed Board (of the Council), its chair or the CPhO’s to fail in what we believe is important.”
They said the Council’s terms of reference should be agreed with the RPS and other bodies but insisted that was failing to happen, leaving open the possibility that the Council’s work may duplicate the RPS’s work on leadership development.
“We just don’t think enough has been done to give us confidence that the way this is currently being undertaken is enough to deliver (good results),” Bennett and Anderson said.
“That is why we are calling for more openness and transparency with registrants and an opportunity for meaningful input from RPS, its members, other professional bodies, specialist groups and other stakeholders to shape the creation of a forum that will really be capable of taking us forward.”
They told the Commission a “new professional faculty structure” at the RPS would “ensure a clear, more inclusive professional leadership voice for all the pharmacy family and one which can set the professional direction for pharmacy.”
But the pair again expressed concern and disappointment that the Commission did not want the “direct involvement of the RPS or other professional bodies in pharmacy” and instead preferred to hear from people invited by the chief pharmaceutical officers.
“That decision was perplexing to us, and still is,” Bennett and Anderson said. Independent Community Pharmacist has contacted NHS England for a response to their remarks.
ICP understands details on the appointment of the Council's independent chair, who will report the leadership bodies and specialist professional groups on the board, are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.