The chairs of the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership have issued their final 66-page report, and it is required reading for anyone who cares about the future development of pharmacy.
There is perhaps a bitter irony that it came just weeks after LloydsPharmacy announced on 19 January 2023 that it was withdrawing from hundreds of pharmacies based in Sainsbury’s supermarkets. The changes recommended for leadership bodies over the next five years proposed in the commission’s final report, while some pharmacists are considering how they will get through the next weeks or months, may seem remote from everyday concerns.
Nevertheless, in an interview with The Pharmaceutical Journal, commission co-chairs Nigel Clarke and Dame Jane Dacre argue that their vision for a united professional leadership body, encompassing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in all four countries of the UK, and other specialist clinical pharmacy associations, would provide hope and a stronger voice in the national conversation about the future of the NHS.
The proposed vehicle for this — a new ‘Pharmacy Leadership Council’ — is to be appointed by the four UK chief pharmaceutical officers from a pool of representatives from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, the Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland and other specialist clinical pharmacy associations. It will also have a lay chair and other expert members.
This council will be tasked to work together on a five-year plan that may result in the formation of one all-encompassing body for professional leadership in pharmacy, with one potential model being the Royal College of Physicians, which has some elected members and others appointed from various related organisations.
The UK chief pharmaceutical officers are keen to push ahead with the recommendations of the commission, having said in a joint statement on 6 February 2023 that they will “move swiftly” to establish the council; however, there are major questions about how this body will be formed.
It is not yet clear whether the three main leadership bodies will participate in the proposed Pharmacy Leadership Council — all three released cautious statements and have yet to confirm their position.
The four chief pharmaceutical officers are employed by the health service, which ultimately reports to the government, and they have a role in managing the political narrative around both. But it would be a highly unusual arrangement for the NHS to have such a powerful role in appointing members of a leadership body. Would members of the professional body feel free to speak out, when their position at the table could be put at risk? Should pharmacy accept this model in its professional representation, when no medical royal college would accept similar? How will this new body remain accountable to the membership of the various bodies?
The co-chairs admit that it is not ideal to have the chief pharmaceutical officers appoint the council, but say “you’ve got to start somewhere” and that this should not be the eventual arrangement in five years’ time. However, there is a real risk that any leadership body will find itself hidebound and unable to speak out against NHS or government policy that undermines the pharmacy professions or negatively affects patient care during this transitional period, as the RPS did on 13 February 2023 on prescription charges or inclusion and wellbeing. This could be hugely significant, particularly at a time of such uncertainty, industrial action and change for the professions of pharmacy.
The commission’s report has outlined some major challenges for professional leadership bodies, particularly the engagement of younger members, credentialing and career development for pharmacy professionals, and having a more powerful advocate for the value of pharmacy services in improving patient care. These are important issues, which require detailed and creative work over the next few years, and putting aside traditional rivalries or prejudices.
However, it is vital that this work starts on the right note, with the professional bodies coming together as a powerful and independent body to shape the future of the profession. Whilst their support is vital, the four chief pharmaceutical officers should consider removing themselves from direct control over this process and encourage the representative bodies themselves to determine the formation and remit of any overarching body. PJ
If you wish to submit a letter or any correspondence to be considered for publication on this topic or any other issue, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Best article I have read so far on the CPhOs appointed chairs report.
Change is a must in modern times. Thoughts about social responsibility have been suppressed in the discussions but for a body with a Royal Charter is important. Reforming the profession as well as the NHS is a necessity as societal, professional and other changes force a review of relevance to the needs of the nation. The article and the report rightly highlight some major challenges for professional leadership bodies, particularly the engagement of younger members, credentialing and career development for pharmacy professionals, and having a more powerful advocate for the value of pharmacy services in improving patient care. To say RPS has been a bit lethargic in these areas is an understatement yet it should be remembered that other national contractor bodies have worked overtime to clip its wings. And, tge NHS itself could have helped. For example, why is CFCP driven by service specifications rather than professional standards? I think the profession would agree that changes are needed. But, my discussions with the members of the profession indicate a divided view about the process. More information about the process is needed for an informed collective view to be formed within the profession. I feel there is a need for position papers written by independent experts to inform and stimulate a debate. Perhaps, RPS and joint chairs would pause and take steps together to publish necessary position papers and allow the profession to discuss, debate and hopefully engage more meaningfully in the change process including the formation of proposed council. Whether a new or a reformed broom is needed requires a discussion but the process must be effective in the end and have general support of the profession.