Lisa Green made a brave decision after working as the only pharmacy technician in a community pharmacy team with “some appalling ethics”.
“It just wasn’t OK,” she says. And that fearlessness led to her becoming an expert witness in a fitness-to-practise case raised in 2013 and finally brought before the General Pharmaceutical Council in 2015. The case found multiple failures, including fraudulent signing of prescriptions, reusing returns and poor behaviour towards staff.
This was the turning point for a career in patient safety that has blazed a trail for other pharmacy technicians, and saw Green described as a “paragon of strong female leadership” by the person who nominated her as a Woman to Watch.
“I became a medicines safety specialist because I thought, ‘This isn’t good enough’,” Green says.
Now, she oversees the day-to-day running of all pharmacy operations across 66 wards at St Andrew’s Healthcare — a large Northampton charitable organisation providing specialist care for people with challenging mental health needs.
Green line-manages a team of 13 people and carries out audits and studies trends to identify where improvements need to be made. “When I took the post the whole department was run by pharmacists … I’m the first pharmacy technician and that brings a different perspective,” she says.
In one recent audit, her team looked at controlled drug requisitions, of which in March 2020 only 43% were fully compliant. Green put several simple measures in place to make systems easier to adhere to, and six months later compliance has improved to 68%.
In previous jobs she has also made a significant difference, not only to patient safety, but also to the culture of organisations.
As a dispensary manager and medicines safety specialist at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust between 2014 and 2015, Green carried out an audit of the storage of controlled drugs, in which she found that no controlled drugs cabinets complied with regulations. It led to her securing funding to replace the cabinets across the hospital.
Her experience “became about encouraging people to not do things that I didn’t think were OK … and trying to break down those barriers of blame culture”.
Part of this involved developing a self-reflection form for when incidents occur, which she has taken with her to other jobs and is helping to spread as an example of best practice in other settings. “I do have lots of people contacting me asking if they can use it,” says Green, who has spoken about her experience of improving medicines safety and increasing reporting of incidents at conferences, including the Patient First event at ExCeL London in 2015.
“Everyone has near-miss logs, and if an incident occurs they’re probably expected to fill something in, but it never feels like that gets to the bottom of the issue. We need to stop people feeling judged … everyone can share a story so we can stop it happening again.”
Green’s ability to inspire and improve has been recognised by her peers. She won the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK award for patient safety in 2016, and achieved second place in their leadership awards in 2019.
She is also the first ever pharmacy technician prescriber, albeit in animals, after being rejected for an MSc in Pharmacy Safety at Imperial College London for not having the correct academic qualifications.
“I was really demoralised, as I knew I could do it. I wanted to show that pharmacy technicians were capable of learning at that level.” So, determined to prove herself, Green applied for an MSc in Veterinary Pharmacy and finished the course earlier in 2020.
She has subsequently become the animal welfare lead at St Andrew’s, which keeps pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. And it also comes in useful at home, where she has a herd of alpacas.
And — true to form — Green already has another career goal in sight: “I plan to do a PhD in medicines safety, and I’ve already contacted [the university].” You would be foolish to bet against her achieving it.
“Lisa is a very driven and influential member of the profession, who is pioneering the way in veterinary medicine and mental health”
“Lisa’s nomination ticks all of the boxes — a pioneer in her field, a promoter of positive change and an advocate for her colleagues”
“Stand-out nomination and really inspirational. She is a bit of a superwoman”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2020 here.