Michelle Styles is the regional manager for London at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE)  – which provides educational and professional training to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in England – and an NVQ assessor for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

She tells Léa Legraien why she is committed to the profession, what her biggest career achievements have been and why pharmacists are vital in reducing pressure on the NHS. 


Q Why did you become a pharmacist?


A I enrolled on a chemistry degree at Queen’s University Belfast. I met lots of people who were doing pharmacy and their course looked a lot more fun so I decided to reapply the following year and was accepted onto the course at Aston University in Birmingham.


Q What attracted you to the position of CPPE regional manager?


A I had been involved in policy and strategy work at the NPA for almost 20 years and felt it was time to develop my skills in other areas.

I trained as an NVQ assessor and found that I was really interested in education and professional development.

The position of regional manager gave me the opportunity to become involved in the development and delivery of learning programmes relevant to all pharmacy professionals.

CPPE’s core values, such as openness, honesty and encouraging others, closely aligned with my personal values. The role works well for me because it’s flexible and based at home.


Q What is the key to your success?


My inability to say no! People come to me when they want something done because they know I’m reluctant to say no. I’ve agreed to do a number of things I didn’t want to do but invariably these provided me with some of my best development opportunities.


Q What are your biggest achievements?


A Being designated a fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Faculty in the first wave in 2013. The process of preparing my portfolio allowed me to reflect on the successes of my career and helped me think about what I wanted to do next.

I’ve just undertaken the process again for reaccreditation and found it very useful in terms of helping me move out of my comfort zone and expand my horizons.


Q What challenges have you faced along the way?


A My greatest challenge is a personal one. While on maternity leave with my eldest son, I contracted a virus that paralysed my vocal chords and I lost my voice for a year.

I had intensive speech therapy, which restored function in one of the chords. But even now – 19 years later – I sometimes struggle to speak, which is not ideal for someone whose job involves public speaking.


Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?


A Don’t micro-manage your team, trust them to get on with the job. When you do this, you empower people to take pride in their work, show initiative and be creative.


Q What are the key qualities of a leader?


A The most inspirational leaders I’ve worked with had a clear vision of where they wanted the profession to go.

They were able to communicate their vision and make it exciting so that others wanted to follow them.


Q What advice would you give women who want to be leaders?


A Believe in what you do and demonstrate your passion for it. Make friends, not enemies – pharmacy is a very small world.

Play to your strengths, be aware of your weaknesses and make sure you have someone in your team who can cover this area.

Finally, always make time to encourage and develop other people.


Q What makes you happy at work?


A I love seeing the ‘lightbulb moment’ when I’m delivering a learning session. I get a real thrill from watching as people finally understand something or see the relevance of what they’ve just learnt and how they can use it in their practice.


It’s satisfying to know that I am making a real difference to how pharmacy professionals care for their patients.


Q How does CPPE support the pharmacy workforce?


A CPPE is commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and works closely with other pharmacy organisations to make sure our learning opportunities enable the current and future pharmacy workforce to provide NHS and public health services.

Part of our remit is to share NHS England’s key policies and help the pharmacy workforce see how these relate to them and their day-to-day practice.


Q What are the advantages of being Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) accredited?


A It’s hugely motivating for the pharmacy team as they can take ownership of the provision of proactive healthy lifestyle advice and feel satisfied that they’re making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of their local community.

In addition, many businesses use the service-profit chain model, which recognises the profits that derive from customer loyalty and is in turn driven by the excellent service delivered by productive and satisfied employees.

In other words, keeping your staff motivated and focused on customer service can increase your profits.


Q Do you agree that GP-based pharmacists are valuable in tackling NHS pressure?


A Absolutely. But it’s not just GP-based pharmacists who can contribute towards reducing pressure in the NHS. Community pharmacy also plays a vital role by helping people to look after themselves, thereby reducing pressure on primary and urgent care.

CPPE’s role is to make sure that pharmacy professionals in these sectors are equipped to be the best they can.


Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy?


A Like everything else in the country at the moment, pharmacy is affected by uncertainties over Brexit and the challenge to continue to deliver high quality services in a time of austerity.

We’re also being challenged to make better use of our skills and to use our teams more effectively.


Q What changes would you like to see?


A We’ve already seen a huge number of changes in the profession and a much wider recognition of our skills and knowledge. We’ve also had a change in the way in which we revalidate our professional registration.

I would like to see more members of the profession access the excellent materials provided by CPPE throughout the year and not just when their records are called.


Q What does the future hold for pharmacy?


A It’s a very exciting time to be in pharmacy. How many other professions provide opportunities for individuals to have a direct impact on the quality of patient care, demonstrate leadership and use their scientific prowess?

I’m proud to be part of the profession and to be able to support colleagues with their learning and professional development.