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'Appallingly hand-picked cronies': New leadership commission comes under fire

The pharmacy union and candidates for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) national boards have warned that the new UK pharmacy professional leadership advisory board lacks “transparency” and risks “political interference”. 

Earlier this week (April 23), the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) published views from prospective RPS national board members on “key issues” to inform voters.

Several of the candidates who volunteered their thoughts to the PDA raised concerns about the new UK pharmacy professional leadership advisory board, whose members were announced earlier this month (April 10) by the board’s chair and the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers (CPhOs) .

The board currently includes nine ex-officio members, an “independent chair” and nine “independent expert members” with the aim to “work collaboratively to….address together a wide range of professional issues”.

But when asked by the union about the board “installed by the four country CPhO’s”, RPS election candidate and pharmacist Martin Astbury said that in his opinion, the leadership advisory board “is not needed”.

“I believe that it appallingly consists of several hand-picked appointed cronies and in no way is representative or representing the profession,” he added.


“Taking up resources”


RPS board candidate and lead prescribing pharmacist and GP partner Shilpa Patel said that while she supported the board’s “commitment to addressing common issues” affecting the sector, she had concerns about “accountability”.

“Creating and maintaining such a board might mean taking up resources that could have sponsored other crucial services,” she said. 

“Accountability and political interference could threaten the board's efficiency and diminish the industry's confidence in it,” she added.

Meanwhile, RPS board candidate and PDA treasurer Alisdair Jones warned that the sector “must be mindful of any future attempt by politicians to take control of the profession”.

“We must remain in control of our professional destiny,” he said.

But Jones added that he supported “any endeavour that attempts to bring together” pharmacy organisations despite their “siloed nature”.


“Full transparency is a basic expectation”


It comes after the PDA last week (April 19) called for “greater transparency” around the board’s membership.

It said that “it should be for pharmacists to determine the leadership of their profession and not for employers of pharmacists nor governments”.

The union also raised concerns about the “expert board members” and called for each to publish “a full declaration of their interests”.

“Full transparency is a basic expectation for this kind of a body,” it stressed.

A Scottish government spokesperson told C+D today (April 26) that the DH has established the leadership advisory board as “an independent public body” to ensure it “can carry out its remit effectively”.

“The board will set its own agendas and provide impartial advice to the existing professional leadership bodies and specialist professional groups”, they added.

"The UK CPhOs may also seek expert advice on professional leadership from the board, as well as from professional leadership bodies and specialist professional groups through existing arrangements,” they said. 

C+D also approached NHS England (NHSE), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), the Welsh government, the Northern Irish government, the leadership board’s chair Sir Hugh Taylor KCB and all nine independent expert board members for comment.

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