Getting our priorities correct

English Pharmacy Board Chairman Dave Branford looks at the challenges of setting priorities in such a diverse profession as pharmacy.

David Branford

I struggle with business planning. Even when I worked as a hospital chief pharmacist, I found the process of identifying the key areas to invest in with an always limited resource difficult. In the back of my mind, there was always the concern that, no sooner had the ink dried on the paper, I would receive a telephone call or email demanding that I focus on another area deemed at that moment as being “top priority”.

I also found it difficult to say no to requests for help and not continually end up with an in tray that was unachievable. An end-of-year report that said I fought my in tray all year and failed to get on top of it is not good for future promotion.

At the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the problem of deciding on a limited number of priorities is even more difficult. The sheer diversity of pharmacy and the many powerful organisations and opinions within the profession can be a huge strength. We are not short of passionate debate and it is a huge honour to lead such a dedicated set of professionals.

I would much rather deal with passion than apathy, but when it comes to setting priorities you end up pulled in many different directions. In the ‘Now or never: shaping pharmacy for the future’ report, Judith Smith noted that we spend an awful lot of our time talking to ourselves rather than addressing an external environment. She also said that if we do not change soon we will miss the once-in-a-generation chance to make a difference to healthcare.

The problem with addressing the external environment is that pharmacists do not see it as immediately addressing the concerns that they have and all too often these problems are internal to pharmacy. Just recently, we had a call from a pharmacist demanding that we did something about medicines use review targets imposed on employees and if we did not he would leave the Society. I do not think that pharmacist will be placated by us saying that we are focusing on the NHS and trying to develop greater clinical opportunities for the future generations of pharmacists.

We need somehow to share the many agendas within the many pharmacy organisations but do it within an environment of mutual trust. In the past, there has been a great reluctance to share but the need to do so is becoming ever more apparent.

We need to engage more with the NHS and to be seen to offer solutions to NHS problems, Smith also stated. We clearly have a fantastic offer to make but somehow we are not getting the message across. So here are our priorities:

  • Improving urgent and emergency care through better use of pharmacists
  • Promoting pharmacist-led care of people with long-term conditions
  • Pharmacies developing relationships with GP surgeries
  • Pharmacists improving care in care homes
  • Pharmacists having access to the patient health record

The first priority — improving urgent and emergency care through better use of pharmacists — has been proposed as the theme for the first campaign to coincide with the impending winter pressures issue. However, in order to achieve this, there is a need for pharmacists to have access to health records so there is a degree of inter-relationships of the themes.

The trick now is to coordinate a national campaign around these priorities. We have developed policy statements to support each area with a summary of the evidence base. Over the coming months, we want you to join us and take every opportunity to speak to key people in your locality about the nature of our offer.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 4 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7830;293(7830):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066637

You may also be interested in