Atif Saddiq chairs the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) Early Careers Pharmacist Advisory Group, which was set up in the summer of 2020 to provide representation for early careers pharmacists across Great Britain. Saddiq, a portfolio pharmacist in general practice and academia, and currently a lecturer in primary care pharmacy practice at the University of Bradford, spoke to The Pharmaceutical Journal about the group’s aims and motivations, and his hopes for his three-year tenure as chair.
What is the Early Careers Pharmacist Advisory Group and what does it do?
We would like to ensure that early careers pharmacists are not ignored
The key aims are to provide advocacy for pharmacists in the early stages of their career, as well as reviewing any new policies to ensure that early careers pharmacists are represented. We would like to ensure that early careers pharmacists are not ignored: that they are considered in any policy of the RPS, and wider, as well as within the pharmacy profession.
Representation is key: we wanted to have a structured way of representing early careers pharmacists.
The group includes influential pharmacists from England, Wales and Scotland, who have been qualified for fewer than ten years. We have got pharmacists from a variety of different backgrounds, including community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, research and general practice, so we get a wide representation of views. We also have provisional pharmacists in the group — we are looking at that stage of transitioning from preregistration to fully qualified pharmacist, and some of the key issues that this cohort faces.
We had our initial meeting almost three months ago. Our next meeting will be held in December 2020.
Why was the advisory group established?
There are several reasons. One of them was to do with ensuring that early careers pharmacists have a platform, a voice and that we can advocate for them — for example, if we are reviewing policies.
The group will help us showcase and share some of the great work that the RPS is doing
Another reason was that, in previous years — before the RPS and the General Pharmaceutical Council became separate bodies — membership used to be quite strong, because the RPS was also the regulator. In recent years, because the regulator is different from the professional body, the membership side of things may not have been as strong as we would have wanted. So, the advisory group will also help us showcase and share some of the great work that the RPS is doing and ensure that our services meet the needs of early careers pharmacists — what can we do to make the Society more relevant to them? Can we complement other services and provisions; is there something that early career pharmacists want to see? The only way we are going to find that out is by having a focus and a strategy to explore this.
What priorities has the group identified?
Inclusion and diversity (I&D) has come up several times. We are actively feeding in to some of the RPS workstreams with regards to I&D. We are also seeing more pharmacists working as portfolio pharmacists, so we can help ensure that the RPS does its best to make the transition easier for pharmacists moving between sectors.
You have previously said that the advisory group thinks that members are disappointed by how pharmacists are perceived by the general public — what can be done about this?
Wherever pharmacy, or medicines, are talked about in the media, ideally we need to have representation from the RPS as the professional body. I think the Society’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been fantastic — and this is also something that was highlighted in the survey; members were impressed with the position that the RPS has taken. It has been very vocal with regards to what pharmacists should consider, and what is required with regards to the coronavirus response. What I believe is that where medicines, pharmacy or pharmacists are being talked about, ideally the RPS should be there.
What else will be happening with the group in the near future?
We would like to be on the pulse of any developments and concerns around early careers pharmacists. We have a hashtag, #RPSEarlyCareers, on social media, and we would like to drum up interest.
We would really appreciate people reaching out to us, feeding through any ideas or concerns
Although we have got representation of pharmacists from a variety of backgrounds, we would really appreciate people reaching out to us — feeding through any ideas or concerns, or anything that they feel needs to be addressed with regards to early careers pharmacists. We have a page on the RPS website, where our contact details can be found. We want to highlight to our early careers members that we are here to listen and take their views on board.
I would say that early careers pharmacists have always been on the agenda at the RPS, but now we have got a specific focus. The RPS is really wanting to engage and be there for early careers pharmacists; to provide advocacy, but also to look at providing services that suit them best.
You have a three-year tenure as chair — what would you like to have achieved by the end of this?
What I am hoping to have achieved is — dependent on national policy and communications from the likes of the regulator — some form of guidance to make it a bit easier for pharmacists to transition between different sectors of practice, because cross-sector work is probably the way forward. Also, regarding plans for having newly qualified pharmacists as prescribers, ensuring that that process is as smooth as possible.