Robbie Turner was chief executive of Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire for seven years and takes up a post at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society as director for England this month. He shares his advice on leadership for community pharmacy

What have you done as a leader so far that you are most proud of?

My proudest achievement has been building the amazing team at Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire. Their commitment to supporting local pharmacy teams and developing the services they deliver is second to none, and they have never failed to make me feel proud.

Is strong leadership particularly important for community pharmacy right now?

We are facing the biggest change to community pharmacy in years, and I think that to make sure we’ve got a strong community pharmacy network that fulfils its potential, we’re going to need far more pharmacy staff to show leadership and step up into leadership roles.

Can individuals make a difference or is it down to national bodies and the LPCs?

Strong local leadership will be at the heart of how we develop community pharmacy, particularly as we see a more locally focused NHS. While national bodies certainly have a strong role to play, for them to achieve what they need to do, we’ll need people who are working in community pharmacy to develop new ways of working and networking with different healthcare professionals.

This is a chance for the whole team to get involved, including technicians and healthcare assistants – I think leadership can be shown at any level. Through some of the work CPWY has done in our healthy living pharmacies, we’ve seen that healthcare assistants can show great leadership, for example by working with patient groups. We’ve also seen pharmacists working in leadership roles locally with GPs.

Do you have suggestions to help pharmacies in the current climate?

Pharmacies have got to make sure they’re keeping an eye on the future. It can be easy to get absorbed in what is happening now in terms of the pharmacy cuts and changes to funding, but if people focus only on the challenges in the system they may start to restrict what they’re doing – which means they won’t recognise and take advantage of future opportunities when they present themselves. I recognise that it can be easier said than done, as many are having a really difficult time and are under a lot of pressure, but if we’re to have a strong community pharmacy network in the future, then people do really need to be looking towards the future.

Pharmacies should continue embracing services, such as public health and wellbeing services, and continue building added value to their dispensing activities.

How can pharmacy leaders create a positive atmosphere and foster a sense of shared purpose in the workplace?

Good leaders, wherever they work, will have a vision for the future. It’s important that they regularly share this with their team and make sure that the whole team is working towards this vision. One thing I would suggest that people do is consider working with their team to create a mission statement for their pharmacy that sets out what they want their pharmacy to be known for, and what would help them to be proud of the pharmacy.

Don’t forget to celebrate success when good things happen. Simple things like saying thank you and recognising that everyone has put in a hard day’s work can help team members feel a sense of ownership in the pharmacy’s activities.

What kind of information should pharmacies seek out to help improve decision making and problem solving?

Through no fault of their own, community pharmacies often work in isolation, which can mean they don’t get feedback that might benefit the business. There are two groups in particular that I think they should seek feedback from. The first is other healthcare professionals in their area, e.g. speaking to local GPs and district nurses to discuss the services they receive from the pharmacy and what they think of them. Is there anything that they could be doing to make each other’s lives easier? Are there any aspects of the partnership that are causing frustration?

We often see breakdowns in working relationships that could have been avoided through better communication at an earlier stage.

Pharmacies also need to start working closely with patients and the public and tailoring their offering to local needs. At CPWY, we set up patient participation groups with pharmacies, allowing pharmacies to hear directly from patients what services they want. This can be really beneficial, as if you start to involve patients then they will be the biggest advocate for your pharmacy and will support the work that you do in the future and promote your services.

What holds people back from being good leaders?

I think that, particularly in community pharmacy environments, people don’t understand that they are being seen as leaders. If people don’t see themselves as leaders, they won’t recognise the powers that they have and will forget to do some of the things that effective leaders do. It goes back to things like celebrating success and recognising the power of their words, for example remembering the importance of saying thank you for a job well done. Because leaders tend to work very closely with their team in community pharmacy, boundaries can sometimes get blurred. Remembering that you are seen as a leader and acting accordingly is something the team will really appreciate.

Remember...

Name your top three tips for people in leadership roles…

  • Lead by example. This should be based on strong values and beliefs that are visible to other people, and that you don’t break
  • Celebrate success. Remember the power of your words and say thank you, probably more often than you currently do
  • Be honest, open and transparent. People will know if you’re not being honest with them or with yourself.

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