The UK’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officers have committed to establishing a UK-wide Pharmacy Leadership Council to deliver on recommendations outlined by its Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership, which released its report today.

The Commission has recommended that a new federated professional leadership framework be established, initially comprising a collaborative Pharmacy Leadership Council, including professional leadership bodies, specialist professional groups, an independent Chair and other expert members.

UK CPhOs Cathy Harrison, Andrew Evans, Alison Strath and David Webb said that they welcomed the commission’s report and ‘will now move swiftly to establish a collaborative, UK-wide Pharmacy Leadership Council to lead delivery of its recommendations and ensure we equip and support the pharmacy professions for the opportunities and challenges ahead.’

The Commission was established in June 2022 by the CPhOs and collected submissions from relevant bodies and other interested parties about what the future of pharmacy professional leadership should look like.

Its report warned that the current low levels of engagement and dissatisfaction with professional bodies could hinder the sector ahead of a changing professional landscape over the coming years.

Need for a ‘united voice’

‘Pharmacy is at its time of greatest opportunity’ and ‘pharmacy professional leadership as a whole urgently needs a strong, united voice’, co-chairs of the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership, former GPhC chair Nigel Clarke and Professor Dame Jane Dacre, Professor of Medical Education at UCL, wrote in the commission’s report.

The Commission made five key conclusions that it felt were currently preventing the pharmacy profession from achieving its full potential.

  1. Insufficient collective leadership

A lack of credibility and resources is preventing professional leadership bodies and specialist professional groups from fulfilling their roles and responsibilities, the Commission found.

They added that ‘governments and senior NHS leaders depend on authoritative professional leadership to bring about successful, evidence-based policy and guidance development and delivery’, and that the ‘disjointed voice of the pharmacy professions’ is ‘holding back pharmacy from making the best contribution to UK healthcare’.

  1. Lack of progress in education and training

Healthcare regulators and employers also lacked input from professional leadership bodies when developing relevant curricula and standards for education and training, the Commission said.

They said that in addition to holding individuals back professionally and limiting the wider contribution of the profession, this had led to ‘unwarranted variability and a lack of consistency between sectors and countries’.

  1. Lack of support for regulatory process

Professional standards are ‘not necessarily recognised or adopted consistently’ by pharmacy professionals because they had not been developed with the input of a unified professional view, the Commission reported.

‘This lack of support for the regulatory process from the PLBs undermines the quality of professional leadership and patient safety, care and trust,’ the report added.

  1. Lack of defined scope of practice

Pharmacy professional leadership bodies had ‘yet to define fully’ the scope of practice for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, the Commission said.

This prevents them from being able to disseminate examples of and implement innovative new ideas and best practice, especially as new technology and ways of working develop, the report added.

  1. Disengagement from professional leadership bodies

Many pharmacy professionals choose not to join professional leadership bodies, which the Commission said undermines the ability of professional bodies ‘to exercise authoritative leadership’.

Co-chairs Mr Clarke and Professor Dame Dacre said that to be able to advocate for pharmacy professions and make the most of the growing opportunity for pharmacy to provide patient care, pharmacy professional leadership bodies ‘will need new members and more resources’, and they encouraged pharmacy professionals to join a professional leadership body or specialist professional group ‘and become a part of the change that we all need to see over the next five years.’

The Pharmacy Leadership Council group

It is proposed that the group of organisations should have ‘clear and defined goals’ based on the Commission’s recommendations and each group involved would have a ‘duty to collaborate’ while still maintaining their individual identities.

They would also:

  1. Facilitate the development of professional standards, especially with regards to professional values and behaviours;
  2. Work to develop a coordinated and authoritative voice for pharmacy professional leadership, leading to greater engagement with patients, the public, governments, other groups and other professions;
  3. Put infrastructure in place to keep abreast of current and emerging research and best practice and commission scopes of practice, best practice standards and guidance;
  4. Contribute to collaborative development of UK-aligned curricula post-registration education and training.
Pharmacy bodies respond to the report

RPS: We recognise our role needs to be different and more inclusive

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said that it was ‘pleased to read that the co-chairs share our ambition for a more inclusive, supportive and collaborative approach.’

It added that the report and the response of the four Chief Pharmaceutical Officers would ‘require careful and detailed scrutiny’, and that it planned to ‘listen to our members and to pharmacy organisations and to understand everyone’s views on the findings and recommendations’, including via an additional Assembly meeting on 20 February.

An RPS spokesperson added: ‘We recognise our role in pharmacy professional leadership needs to be different and more inclusive.

‘There is a need to create an agenda for reform with substantial changes that will stand the test of time. This will require RPS, and others, to spend time considering the most effective way of implementing transformational change.

‘Our commitment is to work collaboratively with our members, the wider pharmacy community and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers to deliver the professional leadership our great profession deserves.’

APTUK: Pharmacy technicians must be enabled to lead

Claire Steele, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) commented: ‘APTUK acknowledges that pharmacy professional leadership needs to evolve to meet the rapidly changing needs of healthcare provision.

‘In doing so the pharmacy technician profession must be enabled to lead on matters pertaining to their profession, be fairly represented and listened to at all levels including relevant decision-making forums.’

NPA: Need to be ‘seriously engaged in the process of change’

The National Pharmacy Association’s director of corporate affairs, Gareth Jones, described the report as ‘a significant attempt to strengthen bridges across the profession and grow the standing of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, in line with evolving public expectations.’

He added: ‘If this is to be genuinely broad and inclusive, professionals working in community pharmacy - who form the large majority - must be seriously engaged in the process of change.’

‘As a major employer body and training provider, we look forward to playing our part in this reset of pharmacy professional leadership.’

PDA: The government does not own the pharmacy profession

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association said that it was still considering its initial response to the report, but said in a statement last week that ‘whilst the professional leadership function in pharmacy is in need of some urgent attention and a reset’, it wanted to remind the government ‘that it does not own the pharmacy profession’.

It added that the government, through the NHS, was the largest employer of pharmacists, and therefore should be mindful of potential conflicts of interest.

‘Any contribution to a discussion about the future of pharmacy professional leadership from the government/NHS is to be welcomed, but it must ultimately be for pharmacists to decide the future of their professional leadership,’ the PDA added.