Claire Anderson was elected as chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) English Pharmacy Board (EPB) on 20 June 2019, taking the helm from Sandra Gidley. She is professor of social pharmacy at the University of Nottingham and was vice chair of the EPB for two years from 2015–2017.
Anderson spoke to The Pharmaceutical Journal about her pharmacy experience, issues facing the profession and the EPB’s plans for the next couple of years ahead.
What is your background?
I did my pharmacy degree in Cardiff, graduating in 1981, and went on to work in hospital pharmacy in Oxford and London. I then went back to Oxford to work in community pharmacy for a couple of years.
In 1989, I became an academic at King’s College London (KCL). As part of that role I worked on continuing education for community pharmacists in the north-west Thames and Oxford regions, as they were then. During that time I set up the first postgraduate diploma in community pharmacy. I was also involved in the Barnet ‘High Street Health Scheme’, training community pharmacists in health promotion, which was innovative at the time. I did my PhD on that programme, entitled ‘Health promotion by community pharmacists’, and I was awarded my doctorate in 1997.
I spent ten years at KCL. In 1999, I moved to a senior lectureship at Nottingham University and became a professor in 2003. I teach pharmacy practice and social pharmacy. I’ve been at Nottingham for 20 years now, and I was head of the pharmacy policy and practice division for most of that time. I’ve just stopped doing that, which freed me up to take on this role as chair of the RPS EPB.
My research interests are around providing an evidence base for community pharmacy services, including public health, and also on emergency contraception and sexual health, prescribing and, more recently, GP and care home pharmacy.
I’m currently leading a UK aid-funded project on developing pharmacy and chemistry education in Kenya
I’ve been involved in the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) for several years, too. I was privileged to be the chair of the host committee for the Glasgow conference in 2018. I’m the president of the academic section of FIP and I’m also on the FIP council and pharmacy board of practice. For more than ten years, I’ve been involved in the pharmacy education part of FIP and I’m the lead for developing academic capacity. I’m also currently leading a UK aid-funded project on developing pharmacy and chemistry education in Kenya, called ‘Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform’.
I may have been an academic for 30 years, but I very much am in touch with practice.
What’s your biggest concern for the profession right now and how should the English Pharmacy Board address it?
I have many concerns: because of the funding cuts, our community pharmacy colleagues have had a very tough time. I know the board has been very vocal about that and will continue to be.
All pharmacists are working under pressure with fewer resources, despite the scale of change going on. Even without Brexit, which adds an extra level of change, there are existing medicines shortages that lead to additional stresses. We’re looking into workforce pressures and the outcomes of that work will be very important.
It’s important that we help pharmacists navigate the new NHS, building on our successful work around leadership within the integrated care systems and primary care networks
It’s also important that we help pharmacists navigate the new NHS, building on our successful work around leadership within the integrated care systems and primary care networks. We must provide real visionary leadership for the profession so that we can effectively support pharmacists from all the sectors.
We need to make better use of community pharmacists and their skills: they need to be recognised more. I hope that the new contract is going to support that; it’s exciting to see the Digital Minor Illness Referral Service and what’s going on with that, but I think that community pharmacists can do a lot more. I really want to support that.
What would you like to see the RPS English Pharmacy Board do differently?
I’ve been involved in the RPS’s innovator’s forum before and I think we need to highlight innovation so that other people can see good role models, and see how things can be done differently. We must highlight where those pockets of innovation, good practice and useful ideas are — in any sector — so that others can benefit from that.
The other thing we need to look at is the massive change that is happening owing to developments in artificial intelligence, big data and genomics. We must lead on this futuristic healthcare for the profession and what education is going to look like as a result. It’s not just our students who need support here — they be more educated in these areas than some of our existing members.
Finally, we can never do enough to get out there and talk to, and support, our members. I would like the EPB to engage more locally, across their sectors.
How well does the RPS work with the other pharmacy bodies?
The Society has worked really hard and built up very good relationships with other bodies. I’ve already had lots of messages of congratulation from leaders of other bodies.
We all want and need to work together — it’s extremely important with all the changes that are going on
We all want and need to work together — it’s extremely important with all the changes that are going on. Take the General Pharmaceutical Council: it is essential that we have a good relationship with it, given all of the changes around foundation and other educational matters. Likewise, with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the community pharmacy contract — we need to meet regularly with other bodies and maintain those relationships.
What can members look out for from the English Pharmacy Board this year?
We’re going to be doing more work on supporting members through the changes in the NHS: integrated care systems and primary care networks. Our diabetes policy will soon be implemented and we’re developing a cardiovascular disease policy, too. I also think we need to be supporting the overprescribing and deprescribing agenda, and we’re going to be doing work around workplace pressures.
Do you have a message for members?
We are there to support members as they navigate major changes to the structure, integration and delivery of NHS services, in this time of great political uncertainty.
We ask members to please talk to us; engage with us at a local level — come and see what we do and come to our meetings: you are always welcome.