Opinion Piece: Victoria Rutter
Celebrating Pharmacists in the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth Pharmacists Association (CPA) was first established by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in the 1970’s with the aim of sharing expertise and resources through a network of national pharmacy associations (NPAs) around the Commonwealth with the aim to improve the practice of pharmacy and use of medicines.
The CPA is often recognised for its joint conferences and PharmAid scheme, which collects recent editions of the British National Formulary (BNF) and other texts from the National Health Service (NHS) which is distributed to pharmacists in resource poor settings through their NPAs.
In 2015 the CPA became an independent charity and I took over as its first Executive Director a year later. It has been quite a journey since then to now – overseeing the exponential growth of the charity, its work streams and increased engagement with members beyond traditional pharmacy realms.
I am, like most members, a qualified pharmacist and have experience working in Europe and Asia. I contributed towards workforce development for many years which is an extension of my passion to see pharmacists engaged and utilised to their maximum potential to deliver patient-centred care.
As more medicines come onto the market and the selection and use of medicines become increasingly complex, pharmacists are in an excellent position and have the right skill set, knowledge and training to ensure that patients receive the best advice and treatments in a safe and effective manner. Yet in many countries, we are still not recognised and embedded into the system as key members of the health care team.
The CPA strives to both strengthen the profession by working with national pharmacy associations, regulatory and educational bodies and in parallel use their high-level advocacy channels as an affiliated organization of the Commonwealth to advocate for the inclusion of the profession in all aspects of medicines use.
Over the past 5 years, our focus has been on increasing engagement with members through developing an online CPD education platform and advocacy channels. We have also developed a project base in areas like antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where we believe pharmacists have a key role to play in stewardship teams to protect the valuable armory of antimicrobials.
Through our partnership with the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) we have established the Commonwealth Partnerships for Antimicrobial Stewardship (CwPAMS) programme which has inspired pharmacists to lead in this aspect. These programmes have also opened doors to other opportunities to embed pharmacists into the multidisciplinary team.
COVID-19 has placed unrecognised pressures on health systems, even in some of the most sophisticated countries. Throughout the pandemic, it also shone a light on pharmacists as conduits of change – who stayed open and available on the frontline for their patients providing essential access to medicines and advice and more recently playing a key role in vaccine roll outs in some countries.
This is our time as pharmacists who serve our patients and communities to shine as important healthcare team members – join us on this exciting journey!
Victoria is a qualified pharmacist and a tenacious leader! She has an extensive portfolio of practice spanning many sectors and countries and is widely recognised for her work at a global level. Victoria became the first executive director of the CPA in April 2016. She has built a strong team, redefined the charity’s mission and led the organisation from strength to strength, including pioneering the Commonwealth Partnerships in Antimicrobial Stewardship (CwPAMS) programme.