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Just 14% believe pharmacy leadership ‘completely fit for purpose’

Only 14% of survey respondents reviewing the development of pharmacy leadership across the UK believe that current arrangements are “completely fit for purpose”, a report has found. 

The chief pharmaceutical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland established the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership in May, to “produce a briefing for the purpose and functions for professional leadership in pharmacy for the future”.

Pharmacy professionals were invited to complete a survey as part of the commission’s call for evidence, with the responses expected to “inform and develop the commission’s recommendations”.

The commission published the findings of its survey – which received 1,243 responses from across the UK – in a report earlier this week. While 62% felt that current arrangements were partially fit for purpose but could be improved, only 14% said they are “completely fit for purpose”.

Read more: Former GPhC chair heads up commission on pharmacy professional leadership

However, this appeared to vary by UK nation, with 59% respondents in Wales saying that the current arrangements were partially fit for purpose, while 67% of those in Northern Ireland were of the same opinion. Meanwhile, 64% of respondents in both England and Scotland shared this view.

Pharmacists made up the majority of respondents to the survey at 82%, with pharmacy technicians accounting for the remaining 18%.


“Too much fragmentation within pharmacy leadership”


Of the 1,243 responses, 897 (72%) responses were from pharmacy professionals in England, with Scotland providing 139 (11%) responses. Northern Ireland accounted for just 67 responses (5%) and Wales 54 (4%).

A further 86 (8%) people did not supply their regional location, the report noted.

Respondents highlighted a desire “to see a shared vision for pharmacy professional leadership at a pan-UK level while also allowing for diversity of approaches across UK nations”, the report found. 

More than four in five (86%) of survey respondents felt that professional leadership bodies were “very important” or “important” to “support and promote the highest standards of professional practice and quality of patient care”.

Read more: ‘Opaque at best’: RPS must be more transparent, review concludes

However, many respondents think there currently is “too much fragmentation within pharmacy leadership”, with several different leadership bodies and organisations across the UK nations responsible for “different elements of pharmacy leadership”.

Some also felt that other sectors, the government and the public are unsure on who “is the go-to body for the promotion and advocacy of the pharmacy profession”, the report revealed.

“At the very least, there is a need for clarity around roles and responsibilities for different bodies and organisations in order to avoid duplication of effort,” according to the report.

This requires a “strong, co-ordinated and unified” pharmacy voice, which is “inclusive of all sectors and roles but distinct from trade unions”, it added.


Leadership bodies “lack the power and authority”


Other key sentiments expressed by survey respondents included raising the quality and visibility of leadership.

Some respondents believe that the professional leadership bodies “potentially lack the power and authority to provide effective leadership within the pharmacy sector”, according to the findings presented in the report.

Additional work might be necessary for leaders to gain the trust of the professionals they represent, and to ensure their bodies are transparent and “accountable to their members”, the authors of the report suggested.

Earlier this month, a report reviewing how members and elected members engage with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society found that the body was perceived to be “complex and opaque” and was “not currently getting its communications and engagement right”.

The report also noted that 88% of respondents believed that engagement was a key role for professional leadership bodies, but only 24% agreed that they felt connected to a professional leadership body.


“Compassionate” regulatory support


Regulatory support was the area survey respondents were least convinced should be a priority for professional pharmacy leadership bodies.

However, 80% of respondents agreed that professional leadership bodies should play a role in setting standards for pharmacy professions.

Other clear themes captured by the survey included providing compassionate support.

Read more: Watchdog ‘not yet assured’ GPhC has fixed fitness-to-practise concerns

There is an "important role for professional leadership bodies in challenging poor practice”, the report acknowledged.

But professional leadership bodies must “strike the right balance” in providing regulatory support, working with regulators, and “providing encouragement and support to pharmacy professionals to help them meet regulatory standards where they might be encountering issues”.

The report also found respondents wanted to increase “the role of pharmacy technicians in pharmacy leadership”.

Many pharmacy technicians who responded to the survey felt that “current improvements, changes and innovations within pharmacy appeared geared towards pharmacists without considering, or potentially at the expense of, pharmacy technicians”.


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