Ade Williams – Community Pharmacist – on the Mary Seacole Programme

Ade WilliamsAde Williams is a Director and Superintendent Pharmacist of the M J Williams Pharmacy Group. He is the Lead Prescribing Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in South Bristol. He also works as a prescribing pharmacist, part of the Clinical Team at the Broadmead Medical Practice. 

The Mary Seacole programme is a six-month NHS development programme aimed at those in their first formal leadership role. It teaches participants how to embed their learning, turning it into team successes and compassionate patient care.

Since 2017, NHS England has funded 528 community pharmacist and pharmacy technician places on the programme, as part of the Pharmacy Integration Fund.

Ade describes how the programme has helped his personal and professional growth and development, changing his outlook on the personal impact he can make on improving care for patients in his community. He says that leadership is something for everyone throughout all levels of the organisation and in all the work they do.

“I have been a community pharmacist since 2003. When I joined the Mary Seacole programme in 2018, I didn’t really think it was going to be so relevant to me. I was wrong – it has enlightened me and given me a greater sense of appreciation of the values and ethos of the NHS and how I am a part of it,” he says.

“The programme is a safe space to contextualise your own ideas and ways of doing things and to really challenge yourself, as well as learning from the ideas and ways of working from others. It has made me become a more reflective practitioner. On the course we talked about patient safety, the challenges and how we can all help and support each other when needed, using the skills and techniques we were learning.”

Ade’s day to day job involves seeing lots of different types of patients, each with their own unique needs and challenges, who all need help and support tailored to them.

He says the COVID–19 pandemic has brought what he learnt on the Seacole programme to the fore and has been able to put these techniques and tools into practice.

He says: “At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw an upsurge in demand in pharmacies. I thought about what I could do and whether there were any initiatives I could take to help alleviate the pressure in the system and not just to make things better for my own pharmacy and team. The Mary Seacole programme taught me invaluable skills, about new models of working and how to be adaptable.

“So, first, I contacted local GPs and my local clinical director. I looked at how we were working and to see what I could do to help. Everyone was grateful for the approach. This gave me a better understanding of what my colleagues and I should be doing and how we can support each other through COVID-19.”

Ade wanted people in South Bristol to be aware that local pharmacies were experiencing increased demand and contacted the local media to explain the situation. Thinking creatively, he helped set up a medicines delivery service linking in with a local running group, using Facebook, to help deliver medicines to vulnerable patients – a model which has since been copied around the country.

These actions resulted in fewer patients needing to collect their medicines in person from Ade’s pharmacy and he also found that people were less agitated than they had been before, as they understood how busy the team was. Local colleagues were relieved by this too, as they also saw these benefits.

This sort of leadership and empowerment – of not being afraid to take the lead to make positive change rather than waiting for other people to take the initiative, while being open to new ideas – was something Ade says he learnt on the programme.

“Positive changes and improvements can happen quickly if you put your mind to them. Being able to effect changes has made me feel much more confident in my leadership abilities. I can see the progress I have made both personally and professionally.”

Ade explains how the programme made him more aware of how the whole NHS system works. “In community pharmacy you can work in a bit of a silo. You can feel quite detached from the rest of the NHS. The programme joined it altogether for me. As a pharmacist, I have a shared role with my local primary care network colleagues, promoting health and wellbeing in our local communities and planning joint projects to improve outcomes for patients.

“I feel I have become part of the fabric of the local NHS. The shared values of the NHS and what I can do to help my community are very important to me. Now I think about what I can do to make things better and how I can make improvements to the system.”

The Mary Seacole programme also caused Ade to consider how he could use his skills and experience to make a positive contribution to the wider health system in Bristol, and he is now the first Associate Non-Executive Director of the North Bristol NHS Trust.

“The Mary Seacole programme enabled me to better understand the challenges we face in the NHS and how we can all make a positive contribution and achieve more if we all work together. I certainly wouldn’t have achieved what I have if I hadn’t put myself through it.”

Mary Seacole, after whom the programme is named, was a pioneering Jamaican born nurse, who helped soldiers to recover from the Crimean War.

The Mary Seacole Programme is currently paused due to Covid-19.