Andre Yeung is a pharmacist, NHS England Network Chair and architect of the Digital Minor Ailments Referral service. By his own admission, he is on a mission to make stuff better for patients.
He was recently elected to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board. He topped the poll in England with 941 member votes.
We caught up recently to talk all things pharmacy.
What have you learnt from your career progress so far?
“I qualified ion 2000. I started as a community pharmacy business. My father was a community pharmacy owner. I grew up with the expectation that I would work in the family business but that came to an end when my father sold the business in 2006 when the market was riding high. I began working for one of the multiples, became an area manager. I then got an opportunity at Celesio to do a business development role across a number of settings across England and into Scotland too. I worked with some fantastic people. After three years of that, I took time out and did an MBA at Durham. I came out of that MBA thinking differently and started my own consultancy. A few years later I a am carrying out a number of functions. I’ve worked with the NHS, Pharmacy Voice the PSNC and others.”
How did you find the election process and what were the top line findings in your survey?
“I think it’s your job to understand how members are feeling. My role will be to represent the views of the members. I will be accountable to members. I found myself in a position where I started to run but realised how little I knew about what pharmacists think about various topics.
“It was a practical thing to do to find out what others are thinking. I wanted to seek to understand and then move forward and have an influence. It was a very positive experience. Some of the other people were gracious enough to give me a pat on his back too.”
There were no hustings so was this the easiest year ever to get elected?
“I genuinely don’t know. I don’t know why that was but to be honest I wasn’t sure if that would have been beneficial for me because understanding what pharmacists are thinking rather than broadcast. I hope to contribute by helping my board colleagues set the tone for the organisation and hopefully influence positive change in pharmacy. I’m looking forward to working with fellow board members and the executive team”
What is your key objective for your time on the board?
“I have always been outward looking. Many pharmacists, ourselves included are in business and the market is constantly changing. I’m slightly obsessed with making sure I serve members as best as I can. I hope to be an outward-looking board member who can stay in touch with members. I hope this will give me a mandate and empower me to some really great stuff for members and the profession and the RPS.”
Is there a dearth of leadership in pharmacy at the moment and does this drive negative narratives in the media?
“I think it would be remiss not to recognise the fact that in community pharmacy especially things have been tough for a long time now. As someone speaking to community pharmacies on a daily basis we have to recognise the last few years have been difficult for everyone. Therefore it is a trend and I do observe it offline too. Like all humans we affected by the environment we operate in especially for business owners. It doesn’t give a lot of opportunity for positivity int he wider profession.
“In terms of vision and strategy over the last five years, people inside and outside community ask me ‘what is the vision?’ so I agree there is an issue there. Maybe the narrative is changing due to recent changes.”
Do we need to imagine community pharmacy in a post-NHS era?
“I think I have a different opinion to you. In England community pharmacy I am seeing green shoots. Im seeing signs of things that give me reasons for hope. The tone of the conversation is changing behind the scenes. I definitely see, through projects I’m involved in, opportunities for the future. The Long-term plan is critical and community pharmacy are mobilising to take advantage of these
What is the digital minor ailments referral service?
“This is a service that I’m involved in that was developed through help from NHS England in the North East of England. We were lucky enough to get an opportunity in the North East around an idea to refer patients from NHS 11 to community pharmacy. I think to date we have had 25,000 patients referred through that channel. It is a service around which enthusiasm has grown around it. It is something that community pharmacy is offering that no-one else can.
“We have similar projects starting elsewhere in the country and I think this is great. The vast majority of community pharmacists are deeply enthusiastic about this type of clinical role. The digital minor ailments service already involves lots of things community pharmacists are doing already.
“If you take the digital minor ailments referral service you get patients referred to community pharmacy to have a proper consultation. Medicine is a really important tool in our armoury, you want training and some equipment. I think independent prescribing is part of our future but I think we need to work out how we get there. I think it’s an evolution. It is a huge investment.”
Have you got any outcomes to report from this service?
“We’ve got lots of information. The service is safe. The pharmacists are doing a great job. Patients love it. And we have been able to scale activity. It is important that the service joins up activity with other areas of the system like NHS 111. It is shifting the patient expectations of what a community pharmacist should be doing and how community pharmacists are perceived.”