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Pharmacists tell NHS that sector’s voice is ‘too fragmented’

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Pharmacists tell NHS that sector’s voice is ‘too fragmented’

The pharmacy profession suffers from “too much fragmentation” with competing voices weakening the sector’s ability to form a united front, an NHS-backed survey has heard.

The UK commission on pharmacy professional leadership, which was launched by the UK’s four chief pharmacists earlier this year and published a report last week on a recent evidence gathering exercise, heard there is a “common perception… that currently there is too much fragmentation within pharmacy leadership, with responsibility… split between several different professional leadership bodies and organisations” 

One individual told the commission: “There are too many… bodies trying to make themselves heard for their part of the sector.

“What external bodies hear is a cacophony of sound with no organised messages.”

The survey received 1,243 responses from across the UK, with both individuals and organisations represented. Pharmacists accounted for 82 per cent of respondents with pharmacy technicians making up the remainder.

While 86 per cent said that professional leadership bodies were needed to help uphold high standards of professional practice and patient care, just 14 per cent said leadership within the sector is “completely fit for purpose” at present.

In addition to concerns about the number of bodies competing to promote their own message or agenda, the commission heard concerns about the relevance of some professional bodies, noting: “There appears to be a feeling that pharmacy leaders need to ensure they are informed and engaged with what is happening on the ground.”

Some respondents felt that leadership bodies “lack the power and authority to provide effective leadership” and that more work needs to be done “to ensure that leaders have the trust of pharmacy professionals” and are transparent and accountable in their decision making”.

Others felt that representative bodies are less effective than their counterparts in the doctor and nursing professions in promoting the sector’s interests and influencing policy decisions.

And the lack of a “clear direction of travel” with “tangible objective” was a particular concern for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in England, according to the report.

“Many” pharmacy technicians felt their profession is treated as a ‘poor relation’ within pharmacy and lacks the resources of other leadership bodies. A number of respondents called for “greater coordination” among the leadership bodies representing the two pharmacy professions.

“A very small number” of individuals backed the idea of a single UK-wide professional body representing both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – a key ambition for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, according to RPS chief Paul Bennett’s response to the commission. 

However, “a small number” of pharmacy technicians expressed their concern that this could result in a loss of independence.

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