UK chief officers spell out vital role of good professional leadership
The importance of strong professional leadership to the UK governments has been spelt out by its chief professional officers in a special session of the Clinical Pharmacy Congress devoted to the output of the Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership, which reported in February.
“Our four governments benefit from external professional leadership advice to enable them to discharge their statutory functions and to develop effective policy,” Alison Strath, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, told the conference. “As evidence, look no further than the pandemic and how we turned to the Royal Colleges for advice, in particular around medicines and how to get the best from them in very challenging circumstances. That advice and leadership was very valued by the governments.
“Our professional regulators and governments depend on the pharmacy professions to provide authoritative leadership, scientific insight and a co-ordinated voice. Key to success is enabling and supporting a more formal collaboration amongst pharmacy leadership bodies and specialist professional groups,” she said.
Quoting Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success’, Professor Strath suggested the transitional Pharmacy Leadership Council, which is envisaged as a time-limited body operational for three to five years, would work like stabilisers on a bike: as “a way of ensuring a steady, safe space to grow together on equal terms”.
“It’s a UK initiative,” she said. “The intent is not to quieten the voice of the devolved nations, but to strengthen our voices across the nations, to share and to learn from each other and to grow together in a true collaboration of pharmacy perspectives and expertise. There is an urgent need for the pharmacy professions to work together collaboratively to deliver their true potential and to address the issues and wider professional opportunities that lie in front of us, including independent prescribing pharmacists and the developing roles of pharmacy technicians.”
As roles and responsibilities grow, the pharmacy professions would need to build and maintain the confidence of members of the public, patients and other health and care professionals. “As CPhOs, we have a vested authority in professional leadership,” she said. “Respected and credible advice and constructive challenge from the professions, helps us to deliver the very best outcomes for the public and for patients. And what’s good for publics and patients is very good for the professions.”
Cathy Harrison, Northern Ireland’s CPhO, said it was an exciting piece of work. “It’s the first time we have ever set an ambition relating to professional leadership that is truly UK-wide. This is a big step, to join NI with GB, and to promote ourselves as UK professional leadership. The second big news is that we are bringing together our two pharmacy professions for the first time. That’s our ambition in time: one voice.”
“The constituent bodies remain sovereign; they will continue to operate at they currently do, but they choose to work together under a duty of collaboration, Mrs Harrison said. “It will comprise organisations that have as their primary purpose one or more professional leadership functions for a group of pharmacy professionals ‘for the benefit of patients and the public’. The Council will be accountable to the professions via their membership of those bodies/groups.
“We want to arrive at a place where we have a UK-wide professional home, that is inclusive of all pharmacy professionals, has a high level of engagement and, as the Commission said, a home with street cred, gravitas, and clout.”
A broader stakeholder forum will allow other stakeholders across the UK, who wish to be involved and want to be involved, to stay close to the work. Regulators, trade bodies, trade unions, patient groups and education bodies, she added.
David Webb, England’s CPhO, said that much of what is needed was already in place. “It’s just about the synergy of bringing everybody together to deliver it. It’s about aligning curricula on a UK basis for education and training, it’s about post-registration practice standards, credentialling or its equivalents, linking in career pathways, and then moving forward with a UK educational infrastructure to support the recording and assessment of post-registration education and training activities. All of these things are tantalisingly close. If we get this energy from collaboration and bringing people together to focus on it, then the future looks extremely positive for all of us.”
The CPhOs hope to be able to provide more detail on the process is setting up the transitional Council as an independent advisory body, with an independent chair and expert panel members, over the Summer.