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Pharmacy Braduate leading the way

Pharmacy teaching at the University of Bradford dates back to 1927 and the current School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences has an outstanding reputation in research and education, including educational innovation. It is no wonder then, that so many Bradford Pharmacy alumni have gone on to make outstanding contributions to the profession, not least Paul Bennett, BPharm 1984, who was appointed as Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in 2017. 

Paul previously held the prestigious roles of Chair of the National Pharmacy Association and Chair of the First English Pharmacy Board, as well as being Professional Standards Director and Superintendent Pharmacist at Boots UK. He believes that both his life and career were influenced by the positive experience of studying at the University of Bradford. “It was a really enjoyable adventure, learning to stand on my own two feet. I have very fond memories of my time at Bradford, including meeting my future wife.”

According to Paul, the role of the RPS is to act as an advocate, supporting pharmacists to be the best they can possibly be; placing patients at the heart of all considerations. “We have a really important role in advocating for pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists and supporting their educational needs and leadership to assist them to become the best pharmacists that they possibly can be, and to contribute to the development and the betterment of healthcare delivery and patient care.” Belief in this philosophy was borne out of Paul’s time at Bradford in the 1980s: “A lot of what I still hold true today, in my values of patient care, came out of being at Bradford. It laid the foundation for me as a healthcare professional.”

The transformation of the student learning experience at Bradford has enhanced the University’s outstanding reputation for research and educational innovation. This has led to a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) from the Higher Education Academy. These developments have delighted Paul, who witnessed them first-hand, on a recent visit to the University: “I’ve been blown away by what I’ve seen at Bradford in terms of how pharmacy is being taught today and how different that is from my time, and how necessary that is in preparing students to be the pharmacist of the future. Some of the techniques that are being used in lectures to demonstrate human physiology, the application of pharmaceutics, the impact of drug therapy on the human body, in a way which harnesses technology, is very different to the dry textbook approach that I was familiar with. Students today are very lucky to have such an opportunity to learn in this way.”

Paul Bennett, Bradford graduate and now Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Paving the way for the development of pharmacy practice

Studying at Bradford was a time of discovery for Paul, laying the foundation for his lifelong interest in science, which he has carried through into his working life. His passion for improving people’s health and supporting the development of pharmacy drives his vision for the RPS in confronting the challenges and opportunities facing the profession. “It’s our role to open up the opportunities for pharmacists to get into new areas of practice, while not forgetting those who choose to practice in the more traditional areas such as community pharmacy, which can contribute to improved healthcare and patient outcomes. We’ve done an awful lot of work around creating new opportunities for pharmacists in GP practice, pharmacists in emergency care units and pharmacists in care homes, and I’m very keen on pursuing an agenda where pharmacists can help improve the health of patients in the primary care setting as well as helping pharmacists in secondary care who want to focus upon various specialisations like gene therapy.”

“This is a really exciting area, some of which has been touched on in my visit here to the University today, and the RPS needs to help pharmacists who want to operate in those areas and pursue those opportunities. This is about the advancement of the profession and our role as a leadership body is to unlock those opportunities and work with all relevant stakeholders to create new possibilities for pharmacists as professionals to practice their profession. I am enjoying marshalling the fantastic team at the Society to deliver these objectives.” Complementing these new ways of working are the advancements in teaching and learning, which Paul was able to see for himself during his visit to Bradford: “In terms of preparing students to be the future pharmacists that we so much need and encourage, Bradford is well placed to do that. There is a lot more team-based learning, exposing students to the environment in which they will practice in future. The application of technology at Bradford is clearly a major positive in helping students to learn and develop, and coupled with the modern teaching methods in use, Bradford feels like it’s got a very strong and positive future.”

“A lot of what I still hold true today, in my values of patient care, came out of being at Bradford. It laid the foundation for me as a healthcare professional.” Paul Bennett

Challenges and priorities for the RPS

Paul has gained a wealth of professional and commercial experience from both national and local pharmacy organisations alongside strong leadership credentials from business and from close working with NHS Commissioners of service. This has helped him make the transition to his position as Chief Executive with the RPS, a role he describes as taxing but thoroughly enjoyable. Paul is keen that all graduates and pharmacy professionals see the benefit of joining a membership body but admits that the challenge is a significant one. “Pharmacists have a choice whether to be members of the RPS or not and it’s, therefore, our job to demonstrate the compelling reasons why being a member of your professional leadership body is the right thing to do.”

“We have to stay grounded in what it is that our members expect of us and to make sure that we deliver the things that they need. Whether it be the development and publication of professional standards, whether it is around education, learning and support, whether it be around professional guidance, or whether it’s around our advocacy role - we’ve got to be where members want us to be and doing what they want us to do while being seen to do that with energy and at pace.”

“At the Society we have a number of immediate priorities, one of those is around the introduction of revalidation by the General Pharmaceutical Council, the regulatory body of the profession, which is a new approach looking at how pharmacists can remain as competent practitioners and the RPS is leading in this space to help support pharmacists meet the new regulatory requirements that come in to play this year. We will also be looking at our international strategy in more depth. The RPS has a very strong and proud reputation not only within Great Britain, our main footprint but globally. We have very strong credentials in pharmaceutical publishing and we’ll maintain that position in the UK while we also reach out into different global markets. At the end of the day, any commercial success from our activities will be reinvested in supporting our members because we are first and foremost a membership and leadership organisation.” 

Advice for others

With the fast-paced developments taking place in the pharmacy and healthcare professions, Paul’s advice for both recent graduates and seasoned practitioners is simple – maintain an open mind towards continued learning, work hard and utilise available support networks.

“Remain curious; never stop learning and investing time in your own personal development. There’s no substitute for hard work but also try to have fun at the same time. When you work hard in a profession or area of work that you love, it doesn’t feel like hard work."

"Finally, always remember that you are not alone. There are many colleagues around you, many that might have experienced the challenges you may be facing at any given time, and you can turn to them for support. Clearly, if you are a pharmacist you have a professional leadership body that you can turn to for your support, but I think the important thing is to not think or act in isolation because healthcare is a team-based activity.”