With 30 years of experience in pharmacy, Deborah Evans has worn several hats.
Now managing director of consultancy company Pharmacy Complete, she tells Léa Legraien about her experience, success and challenges along the way.
Q Why did you become a pharmacist?
A I didn’t know very much about pharmacists – ‘the chemist’ – when choosing my degree course. No one I knew had done pharmacy nor had anyone in my family been to university before.
I wanted something vocational and more applied than pure science. I also wanted to go to the University of Nottingham, which I knew had a great reputation for pharmacy. It turned out to be a good decision!
Q What is the key to your success?
A I love what I do. I work hard and enjoy working with others to achieve more. I’m committed to making a difference. I’ve embraced challenges and difficulties to solve problems. I set a high bar for myself.
Q What is your biggest achievement?
A My biggest professional achievement is leading the Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) concept from pilot to national programme.
We introduced it as a change management programme and I’m very proud of how developing leadership capabilities and using the skills of the pharmacy team are now embedded in how pharmacy operates.
HLP provided a platform for change within pharmacy and there is still much more that can be achieved by building on the enablers of workforce development, community engagement and environment.
Q What challenges have you faced along the way?
A I’ve been qualified for over 30 years and there have been a few professional and personal challenges along the way.
Raising a family and working were demanding, not least the guilt of feeling I was doing neither very well.
Guilt is not helpful, so once I had mostly sorted out my thinking, I concentrated on being the best I could be – at home, work and for myself.
There have been work situations that have been especially difficult. I’m a person who doesn’t look back, which helps. Going through divorce, the deaths of both my parents and personal ill health have been the most challenging personal situations I have faced; these put work issues into perspective.
Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
A One lesson that was painfully learnt is that if a situation doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Trust your intuition, especially about people. It’s usually right.
Q What are the key qualities of a good leader?
A I admire leaders who know it’s not about them, that they cannot do it on their own, leave their egos behind and put others before themselves.
Great leaders demonstrate humility and are able to connect with those who follow whilst demonstrating clarity, direction and vision. They listen, are flexible and develop others. Most importantly, they are authentic.
Q What advice would you give to women who want to be leaders?
A Focus on what you’re passionate about, commit to it and be brave.
Don’t think about what you can’t do but what you can. Set personal goals and make sure you get good development along the way.
Identify at least one mentor and/or a coach and engage with them regularly.
Recognise your strengths and make the most of them. Be aware of the things you’re not so good at but don’t dwell on them.
Be you and look after yourself. As a leader you need energy and if you want to perform at the top of your game you need to ensure you have the best health you can: get plenty of sleep, keep active, eat healthy food, don’t smoke or drink over safe alcohol limits.
I certainly could not do everything I do if I didn’t keep myself in the very best health. It does make a huge difference.
Q What makes you happy at work?
A I’m most happy when developing and motivating people.
Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing others fall back in love with pharmacy.
I work regularly in a community pharmacy within a GP practice and really enjoy engaging with patients to help them to solve their health-related problems.
It’s very satisfying to make a direct difference to patient care when I spend a lot of time in meetings and responding to emails.
Q How have HLPs improved the sector?
A There are 9,474 HLPs registered as level 1.
Over £14bn a year is spent on conditions associated with smoking, obesity, inactivity and alcohol in England. We have to focus more on preventing diseases rather than treatment alone.
Pharmacy is brilliantly placed to proactively engage with customers and patients, many of which can make small adjustments to their lifestyles that will make a big difference to their quality and length of life.
There are many benefits to pharmacies for embracing the HLP concept including having a developed and motivated team, better customer experience, greater productivity and being more attractive to commissioners.
We now have thousands of qualified health champions working in pharmacy and a leader who has developed their skills to further develop and motivate their teams – that is a huge benefit to the sector.
Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy?
A Community pharmacy is currently at its most vulnerable.
The combination of funding cuts, increasing demands and an NHS that has reduced resources makes for a bleak financial situation that is unlikely to improve.
Consumers behaviours are changing quickly – they’re much more likely to seek online solutions.
The threat of digital supply is real. If we lose prescriptions, what have we got left? We have to retain the interaction with patients via their FP10 prescription forms and add value.
Q What changes would you like to see?
A Change has to happen and fast. We must see an acceleration of a new contractual package for community pharmacy that focuses on patient care and decreases the reliance on FP10s and medicines supply.
A focus on long-term condition management, pharmaceutical care and greater integration into the health system is essential. There’s a real urgency for this to happen.
If we wait too long, we’ll see much higher attrition of pharmacies in areas of deprivation where the service is most needed.
Q What does the future hold for pharmacy?
A To survive right now, pharmacy must optimise everything within the contractual framework whilst finding operational efficiencies, which includes delivering against all advanced services and locally commissioned services.
Quality and outcomes will be critical so we must capture what we do.
Pharmacists must focus on patient safety and experience so that patients value the time they have engaging with highly qualified healthcare professionals.
Contractors need develop a strong business plan that looks at local opportunities and the strengths in the business, services and products that will deliver against customer’s needs and extend current capabilities to private services to reduce reliance on NHS remuneration and reimbursement for profit.
Independent contractors have a stronger future by collaborating and finding their niche locally.