The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) is a trade association that supports community pharmacy contractors in the UK.

Leyla Hannbeck is currently the NPA’s chief pharmacist and director of pharmacy.

She talks to Léa Legraien about her success, challenges and love for the profession.


Q Why did you become a pharmacist?


A I loved working with people and felt that I could combine my clinical work with the interaction but also the business side of the profession as I was quite business minded.


Q What is the key to your success?


I’m very driven and want to make sure I do things the best way I possibly can, to the best of my abilities.


Q What are your biggest achievements?


The fact that I came to a foreign country [Leyla is originally from Sweden] and managed to climb up the ladder to reach where I am now.

I managed to build a great team and seeing how they are moving forward in their careers and what they are doing is something that makes me feel happy.

On a personal level, my kids obviously!


Q What challenges have you faced along the way?


I graduated from Uppsala University in Sweden and was practising there before I moved to the UK in 2004.

When I came here, I had to learn about pharmacy law in the UK, as I wasn’t familiar with anything and had a very short period of time to do that. I was working in a pharmacy in a completely new environment.

I was settled in Newcastle when I came to the UK so I had to get used to the Geordie accent, which I wasn’t very familiar with.

I’ve had various challenges across my career but challenges make you stronger, don’t they? Thinking of how you can overcome them is a challenge in itself.

As a woman, I feel like you have to work harder most of the time because you’re trying to balance your life and career: you get pregnant, have small children, a family and your career. It’s a difficult one.

I think the more senior you get the more you think ‘What if? If I was a man, would have I had similar barriers and challenges? Would it have been easier for me?’ You think about those things.


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


To just be myself. Along the way, people try to change you to the way they want you to be, to their perception of how you should behave.

I wish I had learned that a bit earlier, being who I am. If it [doesn’t seem] right then move somewhere where you fit in.


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


Don’t try and change who you are, work hard and believe in yourself.


Q What makes you happy at work?


When we all work as a team to come over a hurdle and achieve something.

Also, being surrounded by people who stimulate my mind and make me think.

I’ve got a young team, most of them are young pharmacists and it’s nice to see them develop and learn new things to become the pharmacists they are.

It makes me happy and proud to see them thrive.


Q How do you advocate the profession within the NPA?


I’m the most senior pharmacist executive within the organisation. I always make sure that the pharmacist perspective is put forward because sometimes people don’t see everything pharmacists do.

Some things are visible and some aren’t, so it’s easier for people to judge. I try to make sure that all those bits the pharmacist does are recognised and taken into account.

There’s a lot of clinical and checking work behind the dispensing, with many years of education around drug interaction and so on. It’s not just about what people see on the surface.


Q How would you describe the current state of community pharmacy?


I think it’s changing and moving towards a much more service-orientated sector. The pharmacists are acquiring more skillset and many of them are becoming independent prescribers.

It makes me really happy because you see the profession doing all of these things that show the vast amount it can do.


Q What changes would you like to see?


A I want to see pharmacists believe in themselves and their skillset more. For example, some years ago it would have been a very big deal to have a pharmacist delivering the flu vaccination service.

We should believe in ourselves to be able to deliver other sorts of services that sometimes take us out of our comfort zone.

I would also like to see pharmacists being trusted, recognised and invested in to be able to showcase what we can do and achieve.


Q Are you confident about the future?


A I am. This profession has gone through a lot of hurdles but in the end we have come out of it with our heads held high.

There are some things that we can influence and do and some that we cannot –so let’s focus on the things we can influence and do the best we can.