I still remember pausing to draw breath before stepping into the room where our Mary Seacole cohort workshop was held.
It was the first day. A room full of unfamiliar faces; of community pharmacy professionals with broad expertise, diverse roles and a plethora of responsibilities all drawn from wide geographical boundaries.
I knew what had brought me there — my deep-seated dissatisfaction, occasionally boiling into frustration. Feeling helpless and disempowered to influence the course of community pharmacy or the NHS for that matter.
What I soon learnt was that all in the room shared my passion and dedication to person-centred care. We were all embodiments of the NHS values even if we had never deliberately schooled ourselves in it.
As I listened to my colleagues speak, I also recognised that innate attribute I find shared by all in community pharmacy — we are all masters at juggling. Doing so, at high speed while navigating a tightrope that is often exposed to unpredictable gust.
Being in the room with them, I realised I was not alone living with this peril. Their voices were telling my story. We all wanted to reduce the juggling or at least taper off the speed. All are looking to get off the tightrope, not wanting to be victims of unpredictable fortune. Our group included technicians and pharmacists. Some working as locums or contracted in independent or multiple settings, managers, owners and even a sprinkle of elected representative leaders, all agreed that this uninspiring routine was not the best for our patients, teams or ourselves. Indeed not even the NHS.
Camaraderie formed through shared experiences and artistic skills (or absence of it). The workshops and online discussion forums enabled ideas to be shared and challenged. We found ourselves identifying in each other, the solutions long sought for unmasked. The online course material feeding our minds, equipping us through knowledge, history and reflective intellectual exercises.
The structure of the course, deliberately fashioned to garner opinions and ideas. This NHS flagship programme does not set out to capture your mind but to empower you to harness the wealth stored within. For no one is better placed than you to cure the problems we know so well. The changes in your outlook are subtle, alongside the transfer of new leadership insights and management skills.
For those with an aversion to verbose management speak, this course will cheer your heart. It teaches how you and your community pharmacy colleagues can use simple, practical tools to navigate and overcome challenges collectively.
“Together” is a recurring word in the course. We learn that collective enterprise is the only way for teams to succeed. The NHS survives on that very idea. By making it possible for us all to work much better together, it becomes easier for you to contribute your best. The NHS needs all of our best.
Mary Seacole herself is still regarded by many as a pioneer of innovative healthcare delivery posessing the grit required to deliver life-preserving care. I can confidently say that the programme that bears her name offers the resources and tools to turn our industry and innovation into the fulfilment of our aspirations.
We are the change our health economy needs; this course offers the chance to learn how to go about making things better in our communities led by their local pharmacy team. The people best placed to do so.
About the author:
Ade Williams is superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy, an independent healthy living pharmacy in Bristol.