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Pressure … pushing down on you!


Pressure … pushing down on you!

The pressures community pharmacists and pharmacy owners are enduring at the moment are unbearable. But we need all our leaders to leave their egos in the dressing room, says Nick Kaye

Pressure. It’s an odd thing because it focuses the mind but it can also be hugely disruptive.

Last month, I was fortune enough to be at an event where a former All Blacks rugby player was speaking. It was an insightful talk about the world’s most successful team. The most successful team, as he explained, because they have a combined age of 123 years, have an 80 per cent success rate and only a handful of teams have ever beaten them.

That was truly amazing. Throughout the evening, lots of inspirational stories were told about why the team was so successful, their lack of ego, the way mentorship was encouraged.

But the phrase that suck with me was that for them, “pressure was a privilege.” I think this stuck with me on many levels. The pressure of trying to be a great dad, the privilege of being a father but muddling my way through the best way I can.

The pressure of trying to balance the books in a community pharmacy, the pressure of doing the best under the strain for my team members and the patients we serve while remembering the privilege that it is to be a community pharmacy owner.

The pressure of being involved in conversations at the highest level of the NHS or Department of Health and Social Care concerning the future of community pharmacy, trying to find a reasonable and rational way through the hardest choices community pharmacy is having to make as a profession.

Those tough choices, of which there are many, include supervision but I also need to remember that the reason I’m involved in those decisions is the absolute privilege of being the NPA’s chair. And as I do, I reflect that the pressure is a privilege.

It is undeniably true that, currently in England, many of us are finding those pressures unbearable. We are seeing pharmacies going into administration and it is heart-breaking. We, as owners, all know the amount of sacrifices it takes to run a pharmacy, the late nights, the missing out on family events, and this current funding issue in England makes us wonder is the pressure is worth the privilege.

We see colleagues in the devolved nations regarded and treated much more as a partner in the delivery of care and as a partner within their systems. I get asked why this is the case. I have now had the pressure and privilege of being on the NPA board for the last nine years and, under governance arrangements, quite rightly, this is my last term.

I have seen different styles of leadership and lots of great people react in different ways to the pressure and the privilege. Some choose to be aggressive and robust, some compassionate, some collaborative and some try and be all of those things at the right time.

But the point I’m making here is that the time has to be right; you cannot stay in one of those lanes if you want to bring the majority of people with you. The balance of co-operation and collaboration verses that of confrontation is also a fine line to tread.

I believe that if you can strike the right balance then you will be a better person in all the situations you are faced with, both professionally and personally.

Some will want leaders to deliver things in certain ways. For some, it’s about the fight. For others, it’s about maintaining working relationships but what should be the prize is the outcome for all.

We are still waiting for the £645 million in new money the government promised us, and it’s critical that money reaches pharmacies on the frontline. The shambles around flu and Covid was terrible and the ongoing increase in drugs costs is literally business-breaking.

However, we need all our leaders to leave their egos in the dressing room and concentrate on the outcome and the ongoing journey.

No individual can get us there. We all have to come on the journey together. Although it’s exceptionally hard at the minute, I believe we can get there. So, here’s a quote from one of my favourite films, The Dark Knight … ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn.’

With the next community pharmacy contract, let’s hope the sunrise is on its way.


Nick Kaye is the chair of the National Pharmacy Association and a pharmacist based in Newquay. These are his personal views.



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