Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England, will be retiring in February 2022 after 16 years in the role, it has been announced.
Ridge took the helm as CPhO for England in March 2006 from his previous job as director of pharmacy at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
As CPhO, Ridge — the most senior adviser on medicines and pharmacy to the NHS and UK government — leads more than 70,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians registered in England.
He has worked with a team of pharmacy professionals, working at both national and regional levels — including 14 chief pharmaceutical officer clinical fellows — aiming to ensure pharmacy professional advice is deployed effectively to improve patient care.
During his time as CPhO, Ridge has led on establishing clinical pharmacy practice in general practices; the transformation of pharmacy professional education and training; leading the adoption of new medicines technologies into the NHS to benefit patients and increase value; and investment in ensuring systems are in place to maximise medicines safety for patients.
He has also led a number of government and NHS reviews, including on medicines safety, hospital aseptic services, access to cannabis-based medicinal products, and most recently overprescribing of medicines.
Ridge also helped deliver a new system for the governance of controlled drugs, following the Shipman inquiry, and led the establishment of the first independent professional regulator for the pharmacy professions to ensure the highest standards of patient safety and care.
Responding to the news, Steve Powis, national medical director at NHS England, said he wanted to thank Ridge for his “outstanding contribution” to the NHS, particularly in “transforming” pharmacy’s clinical input to NHS services and for his energy and dedication to patients.
“I am personally grateful for his advice on key issues such as antimicrobial resistance, medicines safety and supply, controlled drugs, and medicines regulation; and his contribution to key national clinical programmes and, crucially, the COVID-19 vaccination programme which have brought lasting improvements to patient care,” said Powis.
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England, wished Ridge “well for the future and [I] thank him for his public service”.
“I particularly want to thank him for his recent support for the RPS Inclusion and Diversity Strategy and I hope to continue this journey with his successor,” she said.
NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) has started the recruitment process for Ridge’s replacement and is welcoming applications from “senior pharmacy leaders registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council, with Master’s degree in Pharmacy (or equivalent) and a postgraduate or management qualification, or equivalent experience”.
NHE&I said candidates would also need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and experience of working in or with the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS and other organisations.
NHSE&I has confirmed that the salary for the post, which is based in London, will be between £100k – £131k.