Expanding the role of community pharmacy for the benefit of patients

Katie Hovenden was the first pharmacist to be named as an inspirational female leader by the Health Service Journal. Here, she talks about her contribution to the primary care sector.

Katie Hovenden, director of clinical and professional development at NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group

Improving public health has motivated Katie Hovenden throughout her career. Now director of clinical and professional development at NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Hovenden was the first pharmacist to be named as an inspirational female leader by the Health Service Journal, which has produced an annual list of 50 such women for the past two years.

Hovenden was involved in an early pilot of the Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) concept in 2008 when she worked as head of medicines management in Portsmouth. The initiative aims to promote public health and deliver quality commissioned services via community pharmacies.

Hovenden says she is immensely proud to have been part of this programme, in particular, seeing the enthusiasm and commitment of the staff who became accredited as healthy living champions. “This team has made a very real difference to some of the people of Portsmouth, helping them to live healthier lives through supporting them to give up smoking, lose weight or cut down on their levels of drinking. It was a privilege to showcase the work and host visits from a number of opinion leaders including Earl Howe, the UK government minister responsible for pharmacy, and Richard Parish, former chief executive of Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).” The programme has now been rolled out on a national scale.

Working together

Hovenden first started working in the primary care sector in the early 1990s when she became a pharmaceutical adviser to the health commission in Portsmouth. “I started to work closely with GPs, under the mentorship of a GP medical adviser, supporting and encouraging improvements in the quality of their prescribing,” she says.

“This was in the days when many GPs were not used to working closely with pharmacists and some were initially cynical about how pharmacists can help them with their prescribing decisions, but I was able to draw on my background in medicines information to summarise evidence and to highlight where changes in prescribing can improve outcomes for patients, often at a lower cost.”

Throughout her career, Hovenden has continued to work on improving medicines use and the quality of primary care services. “I was a trainer with the National Prescribing Centre (now part of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and was involved in delivering therapeutic workshops for a wide range of healthcare professionals,” she explains.

The workshops explored the evidence base for many drugs commonly prescribed in primary care, and how clinicians might change their practice to improve outcomes for patients.

“Knowing that teams were better placed to go back to their practices and implement changes that would benefit patients was hugely satisfying,” she says. “With dwindling NHS resources and ever-increasing demand, it is vital that there is rapid spread of best practice to improve health and reduce variation in the quality of services.”

Promoting health locally

When primary care trusts were created in 2001, Hovenden joined the public health department. “I started to learn more about the health challenges we faced in Portsmouth,” she says. “Smoking is the single biggest cause of premature death in Portsmouth so I was very proud when we achieved the highest number of four-week quitters per head of population in the South Central area.”

After the most recent reorganisation of the NHS in 2013, Hovenden was appointed in her current role. “It’s a great privilege to be part of the senior leadership team at NHS Portsmouth CCG, which is truly a clinically led organisation,” she says.

The public health team within the local authority now has responsibility for the HLP scheme, so Hovenden is no longer involved in it. “I am delighted that we have managed to transfer some of the resource, experience and enthusiasm to the local authority and I am thrilled that the HLP programme continues to flourish locally,” she says.

“Through strong partnerships with the local authority we continue to identify opportunities to develop the vital role that community pharmacies provide at the heart of their community. For example, we now have pharmacy staff working closely with carers’ centres, involved in local community days and supporting those with dementia as Dementia Friends.”

Hovenden’s time is now spent leading the medicines management teams, which work across three CCGs, and the primary care engagement team. “Between us we are working with GP member practices focusing on quality improvement and finding effective ways for practices to be engaged in the commissioning work of the CCG,” she explains.

“The commissioning landscape is more complicated but the opportunities to influence services for the benefit of patients have never been greater.”

Interview by
Jeff Mills.

Katie Hovenden, MRPharmS

Career summary

1984–1987: Provided 24-hour pharmacy service as part of a team of four resident pharmacists. Hammersmith Hospital, London

1987–1990: Drug information pharmacist, Royal United Hospital, Bath

1990–1995: Drug information manager — regional drug information centre, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust

1995–2005: Pharmaceutical adviser, formerly Portsmouth and South East Hants Health Authority, subsequently Portsmouth City Primary Care Trust

2005–2009: Head of medicines management, Portsmouth City Primary Care Trust

2009–2010: Associate director of medicines management, NHS Portsmouth

2010–2013: Associate director of primary care and medicines management, Portsmouth City Teaching Primary Care Trust

2013 to present: Director of professional and clinical development, NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group


BSc (Hons) Pharmacy, University of Manchester

Postgraduate Diploma Prescribing Science, University of Liverpool

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 6 September 2014, Vol 293, No 7826;293(7826):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066202

You may also be interested in