Issue of professionalism sparks debate at Pharmacy Show

Pharmacies owners must foster a culture of professional values and compassion for patients among staff.

People who own and control pharmacies have a responsibility for creating a working environment that allows professionalism to flourish, says Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, at the Pharmacy Show

The people who own and control pharmacies have a responsibility to create a working environment that allows professionalism to flourish, according to Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

“It’s not mainly about the physical environment, although that is important — it is particularly about the culture in the organisations,” he said.

The issue of professionalism for pharmacy was a key topic of debate for leaders at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham on 5 October 2014.

Ash Soni, the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, believes most pharmacists are professional, but thinks professionalism is more widely recognised in the hospital sector because if pharmacists make changes to medication they are accountable for that action and it is valued and recognised.

“I don’t think that happens in community because, as a community pharmacist, you find out something is wrong with a prescription, and you have to refer it back to the prescriber or doctor to make the change,” he said. “So I have given away my responsibility and accountability instantly.”

Mark Koziol, chairman of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, told delegates: “The vast majority of pharmacies are no longer owned by pharmacists. [The sector] is now being controlled by a small number of very influential organisations.” He thinks there is a need to create a working environment where “professionalism and professional autonomy” automatically happens.

A delegate from the Day Lewis pharmacy chain asked whether universities were carefully selecting graduates for professionalism or whether there was too much focus on science.

Soni stressed that “science is valuable to what we do”, but in term of the students that we select “we currently have a system that is based on academic capability, not necessarily on capability to care, and we need to see more of that built into what we do”.

Rudkin told delegates: “Across all the healthcare professions, there has been a realisation that there needs to be a much stronger focus and much more work done on recruiting students for their values as well as their intellectual capability. I am sure that is easier said than done — it is quite difficult to assess people’s values and inner core, things like compassion.”

“I think there is a role for us for pushing that agenda; it’s certainly at the heart of our thinking in the current revision of the standards against which the universities are measured,” he said. “If you can get that right, then that is the greatest safeguard for patients.”

A consultation on these revised standards is due in 2015.

Mike Holden, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, commented: “I tend to recruit on character first, then knowledge second; because you can do something about the knowledge, but you can’t do much about the character.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, October 2014;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066727