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Keith Ridge to retire as chief pharmacist after 16 years

England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, Keith Ridge, is to retire from NHS England and NHS Improvement next February after 16 years as the NHS and Government’s most senior advisor on medicines and pharmacy.

NHS England & Improvement is recruiting a successor for the role, which has a salary range of £100,000-£131,300 per annum. It is accepting applications from “senior pharmacy leaders” who are on the professional register and have a postgraduate or management qualification, or equivalent experience. The deadline for applications is August 19.

Mr Ridge currently leads a team of pharmacy professionals, working at both national and regional levels, including 14 clinical fellows, to ensure pharmacy professional advice is deployed effectively to improve patient care. He is also professional leader to the 70,000+ pharmacists and pharmacy technicians registered in England.

National medical director Professor Steve Powis said: “I want to thank Keith for his outstanding contribution to the NHS, particularly in transforming pharmacy’s clinical input to NHS services, for his energy and dedication to patients, and the integrity with which he has fulfilled his leadership role.

“I am personally grateful for his advice on key issues such as anti-microbial resistance, medicines safety and supply controlled drugs and medicines regulation; and his contribution to key national clinical programmes and, crucially, the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which have brought lasting improvements to patient care.”

Years in post

Before joining the Department of Health in 2006, Mr Ridge had held a number of posts in the NHS, latterly as director of pharmacy at North Glasgow Hospital and then University Hospitals Birmingham.

He has at times been a highly controversial figure among community pharmacists, with some interpreting his emphasis on the need to address pharmacy ‘clusters’ as an indication he envisaged a significant number of closures.

However, over the past year and a half he has made a number of supportive statements concerning the front line efforts of local pharmacies during the Covid crisis.

His time as CPhO is noted for a distinct emphasis on medicines optimisation and patient-centred care. He has also led the development of education and training standards for independent pharmacist prescribers, which underpinned the deployment and training of thousands of new clinical pharmacists and pharmacy technicians under the NHS Long Term Plan.

He helped deliver a new system for the governance of controlled drugs following the Shipman inquiry, and led the establishment of the first independent professional regulator for the pharmacy professions.

The impact of his medicines optimisation agenda can also be seen in community pharmacy, where there is an increased emphasis on the provision of clinical services, which he has seen as key to integrating the sector into the NHS.



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