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Peter Kelly: Leadership – often spoken of, rarely seen

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Peter Kelly

IMAGINE you board a ship only to discover that there is no agreed destination. The Captain announces that the plan is to go with the flow and see which way the wind blows and the ocean roars. How would you feel? Would you feel anxious? Is pharmacy a ship out to sea without direction?


Leadership has really become the buzz word of the decade, but can we all be leaders? If everyone is a leader, who follows? The world is now full of leaders and aspiring leaders, but no one seems to know where we are going. Is it possible that we could all wake up one day to discover that everyone has become a leader with no followers?


I am now going to say something very controversial, I studied pharmacy because I wanted to be a community pharmacist: I didn’t study pharmacy because I wanted to do some of the GPs’ work — although I do enjoy things like doing health checks, giving flu vaccines.


I didn’t study pharmacy because I wanted to promote healthy living — although I do enjoy promoting healthy living. I studied pharmacy because I wanted to learn how drugs work and I wanted to use my knowledge to advise my local community on: how to take drugs; when to take them; when not to take them; how they work; the downsides of taking them; and the probable outcome. That’s the job I studied for because that’s the job I wanted. I didn’t study pharmacy hoping it would change into a different job.


When we talk about the future of pharmacy we always talk about how much it is going to change. The system is going to change: hi-tech, digital, automated, the ‘amazonisation,’ of pharmacy. Who wants this system? Do the patients want a less personal more automated system? Has anyone asked them? Do pharmacists want an automated system so they can go work in GP surgeries delivering services?


Leadership is about listening. Is anybody listening to pharmacy?


Is anybody asking the right questions?


Does it matter what patients want?


Does it matter what pharmacists on the ground want?


Change is inevitable, but not all change is progressive, sometimes it’s regressive and regrettable.


Peter Kelly is a community pharmacist based in London. He has an interest in public health.

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