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Sensible … but challenging leadership plans


Sensible … but challenging leadership plans

I fear that if pharmacy bodies don’t want change, the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership’s proposals will lay on the shelf gathering dust, says Nick Kaye


This month, I was invited to give a talk to Health Education England pre-registration pharmacists about community pharmacy. As I was talking through the slides with Drew, an LPC colleague, we were reflecting on the change the community pharmacy has been through since I qualified 20 years ago and since Drew was first involved in pharmacy 10 years ago.

The dispensing process still very much at the heart of the community pharmacy but the myriad of other things that are now delivered in the community pharmacy, from vaccinations to new medicine service, is truly remarkable and when you are constantly living in the eye of the storm, maybe you don’t see the level of change that is happening around you.

And yet we are still fighting for a stable financial future and a vison for the sector to coalesce around.

It has been said before that the five-year deal we are currently fighting with in community pharmacy has been the hardest challenge the sector has faced in recent times and this year, given flat funding, the inflationary pressures of the economy and the new minimum wage, it is true that this final year of the contract is certainly going to be the hardest year of the deal.

We will need sight of our new contract as soon as possible to allow us to plan for the future. I am certainly hoping the government will see that community pharmacy is worth more than the current 1.6 per cent of the total NHS and social care budget but with the loss of transition payments and no national Pharmacy First scheme as yet, the financial future looks less than certain.

We are also waiting for the vision for community pharmacy from the PSNC which I hope we, as a sector, can own and drive forward for the benefit of our patients, the sector and the wider healthcare system.

The thing about a vision is that it needs more than itself to become true. It needs buy-in from all stakeholders and a leadership that can sell the vision and carry us along the way. Having been involved in leadership organisations, I know this is not an easy task and the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership has set out some of the issues the profession faces in the leadership space.

In a personal capacity, I think the intention of the four chief pharmaceutical officers was well indented and reading the report, the number of really good people who have put energy, time and resources into creating the report has, I think, delivered something that has tried to capture the way the profession is feeling right now.

I wonder if the same quotes of frustration would have been in the report if the profession was in a different place, especially in community pharmacy. Having said that, the report suggests a sensible but, I fear, very challenging way forward and I am left wondering what authority the report has in making the five recommendations become reality, especially the Council which will bring professional leadership bodies together.

While all this is going on, professionals keep the specialist professional groups they are already members of, and when the report talks about pharmacy professional leadership bodies, this refers collectively to the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, the Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. The report also uses the term pharmacy specialist professional groups when it refers to other professional organisations whose purpose is pharmacy professional leadership for the benefit of patients and the public, for example, within a specialism such as mental health. I am left wondering where is the specialist professional group for community pharmacy?   

So, although this is a significant attempt to strengthen bridges across the profession and grow the standing of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, in line with evolving public expectations, if this is to be genuinely broad and inclusive, professionals working in community pharmacy who form the large majority must be seriously engaged in the process of change.

I’m also aware it is hard to change even one representee body having just gone through a major overhaul at the National Pharmacy Association. This was an organisation that was very much up for the need to change and I fear if the professional leadership bodies and specialist professional groups don’t want change or feel it is being forced on them, this will be yet another fantastic well-intentioned report that will lay on the shelf gathering dust.

Do I think the future is bright? Yes, I do. As the line in the Batman film goes, ‘the night is always darkest just before dawn’ and maybe, just maybe, the next community pharmacy contract will align to the new vision and a strong, inclusive leadership will emerge to deliver it for us all.


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

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