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RPS flags transparency, efficiency, collaboration gaps in UK Pharmacy Leadership Commission

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has stated that the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership lacks the essential transparency, efficiency, and diligence needed for success, urging a shift in its approach.

The Commission’s operational approach hinders its ability to meet the expectations of both the profession and the public, while prioritising government interests over their needs and preferences, RPS Chief Executive Paul Bennett (R) and President Claire Anderson have jointly said.

In a blog post on September 7, the RPS leaders asserted that the Commission lacks transparency and is progressing slowly in implementing proposals that were published seven months ago. “Most pharmacy leaders are growing frustrated and increasingly impatient with the Commission’s perceived lack of “meaningful progress” in enhancing leadership within the field,” the pair noted.

In June 2022, the four UK Chief Pharmaceutical Officers (CPhOs) formed an independent Commission with leadership expertise drawn from various domains, both within and outside of pharmacy, to assess the future of professional leadership. The Pharmacy Minister Neil O’Brien recently revealed that the Commission’s costs, funded by the offices of the CPhOs, amounted to £87,745.

“Opacities and delays in deliberations’

In February, the Commission issued five broad recommendations covering leadership, policy and professionalism; regulatory support; regional, country, and international relations and engagement; the scope of practice for future pharmacy professionals; and professional education and training. RPS members are also entitled to scrutinise the plans and developments of the four CPhOs to ensure alignment with the correct direction and structure, according to the RPS leaders.

“The Commission published its report in February, but in the seven months since then it has made little if any meaningful progress,” the RPS leaders said. “Its deliberations are opaque as well as slow.”

As per the first recommendation, a Pharmacy Leadership Council, consisting of professional pharmacy leadership bodies like the RPS and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, would oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. The proposal also suggested appointing an independent Chair for the council.

However, Bennett and Anderson noted that the four Chief Pharmaceutical Officers leading the search excluded RPS from the selection process, a decision they perceive as lacking in confidence-building and collaborative spirit.

They stressed the necessity for a thorough evaluation of the Commission to guarantee it receives appropriate support and resources in a fair and efficient manner, ensuring that all voices in pharmacy leadership have an opportunity to be heard.

‘Restricted involvement of professional pharmacy orgs’

Bennett and Anderson expressed their concern and disappointment regarding the Commission’s preference for input from individuals invited by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers, rather than direct involvement from the RPS or other professional bodies in pharmacy.

“Our involvement was restricted due to the decision that the Commission would not directly engage with the RPS or other professional pharmacy bodies,” they said. “Instead, they chose to hear from individuals invited by the CPhOs to participate in a personal capacity. This decision was puzzling to us, and remains so.”

Meanwhile, the duo conveyed apprehension about the government gaining influence over pharmacy leadership, while stressing the importance of leadership within the profession itself.

“No other professional leadership organisations are controlled by or beholden to government or the NHS,” they said. “It would be a startling and deeply troubling departure for that to happen in pharmacy.  Yet that is the risk our profession is facing.  Leadership must be from the professions, for the professions and for the ultimate good of the public.”

‘Co-operation is key’

The RPS leaders stated that the Council’s terms of reference should be collaboratively established with the RPS and other relevant bodies. However, they emphasised that this cooperation was not materialising, potentially leading to duplication of efforts between the Council and the RPS in leadership development.

“We do not want the proposed Board, its chair or the CPhO’s to fail in what we believe is important,” the RPS leaders said. “We want the ambitions described in the work of the Commission to succeed – we want collaborative and strong leadership to amplify the voice of the profession and its members for public good.”

Meanwhile, the duo also admitted that the RPS is not flawless and requires increased transparency and accountability towards its members. They also acknowledged that the organisation’s constitution and governance structures need modernisation but assured that progress is underway.

“What we hope this shows is that we recognise the need for change, and we are keen to move forward with it for the benefit of the profession, our members and importantly for the public good,” they added.

In July, the RPS Assembly announced Anderson’s re-appointment as President for an additional two-year term. In her role, Anderson oversees the execution of the constitutional governance review and works to expand the profile and influence of pharmacy as a profession by building and strengthening relationships with other pharmacy leadership bodies and organisations.

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