It is our pleasure to introduce Julie Yeoman as one of our guest bloggers, who writes so passionately about compliance and visits the core of company culture, an interesting angle in such a process driven industry.

Working in the field of healthcare compliance for over 20 years, Julie starting her career with AstraZeneca where she achieved ABPI final signatory status. She then spent many years after that working as a consultant supporting a vast range of different pharmaceutical companies. This supports included providing ABPI Code training, signatory mentoring, giving guidance on promotional and non-promotional initiatives as well supporting companies when under PMCPA audit. Creating a company culture where compliance is valued and visible is something which is very much a driver for her continued work in this space.

“Compliance with the ABPI standards is a core company value… BLAH BLAH BLAH!”
All too often we hear senior leadership describing compliance with the ABPI Code of Practice as a ‘core value’ or that it is ‘an integral part of the organisation’s culture’ – but just how is that being put into practice?

Good compliance needs effective leadership and good leadership needs effective compliance. It is as simple and straightforward as that and when this equilibrium is achieved the benefits are enormous.

So what do these benefits look like?
TRUST – compliance encourages trust which in turn drives meaningful respectful working partnerships with the company’s external stakeholders. This allows companies to be seen and accepted as a valued and active player in the healthcare ecosystem.

PATIENTS – Compliance is focused on patient benefit. Acting with integrity and doing the right thing by patients is fundamentally what companies should be striving to achieve in order to be successful in improving patient outcome, patient experience and delivering business success.

TALENT – Compliance will attract the right people. Today’s talent is more likely to want to work for, and stay working for, a company that is fully committed to their compliance ethos and can openly demonstrate an ethical and moral approach to their business model.

How can this be achieved?
Give compliance the visibility and inclusion it needs and deserves. It is vital for companies to have compliance representation on the leadership team, whether that’s at the UK affiliate level or right at the top of the global tree.

Companies need to learn how to further invest, trust and be inclusive when it comes to their compliance team, but this also has to work both ways. Compliance departments need to learn how to be effective leaders themselves, work out exactly how they are needed and be responsive to company needs and business opportunities as well as upholding a company’s predefined values.

A mindset shift in what compliance actually means to an individual company has to take place. Too many people within an organisation will describe compliance as sticking or following the rules and ‘doing what they are told to’. How refreshing and exciting would it be if compliance focused more on really understanding industry standards and what they can achieve when implemented. This would make applying requirements and the principles of the Code a much simpler and straightforward practice.

Of course, a well-established compliance framework is essential within any company. This should comprise of guide rails in the form of training packages, a monitoring program, a suite of ABPI compliance related SOPs and a communication plan. But the foundation for all such elements must rest on a well invested and nurtured culture in order for any framework to do its job – with leadership both sponsoring this investment as well as being held to account in the delivery.

All too often in house ABPI Code training relies on teaching the audience about the different Clauses, minimal standards required and PMCPA cases and rulings. Obviously, these are important elements to cover during any introductory or refresher compliance training, but participants must be shown how being compliant with industry standards is intrinsically linked to the success and growth of a company. Learning the value of taking personal accountability, including at the leadership level, is also often a message that is not spoken about during training.

Unpacking and embracing the principles of the ABPI Code of Practice alongside embedding company values whether they include compassion, courage or patient focus, need to be lived and breathed. In other words, they need to go beyond the poster in the visitor foyer!

Compliance is very much a peoples’ game requiring skills such as being able to effectively engage with others, establishing strong respectful working relationships and understanding how to partner cross-functionally.

Invest in the right people! Good, organisational wide compliance relies on employees demonstrating the right attitude and values. Of course, experience is important but skills can be taught or mentored – maybe not the same can be said for core values. How many times do interviews focus on what an individual believes in, what they stand for and why working in the life science sector is important to them?

The Authority is the pinnacle of leadership in self-regulatory compliance, but could it work more closely with industry in helping define and shape a culture that embraces and supports the true value compliance can provide a company?

Culture does not appear alongside Patients, Integrity, Transparency and Respect as one of 4 core principles of the new 2021 ABPI Code of Practice. Or is culture supposed to be sum of all these parts?

We are told that leadership drives culture and from my experience I know the culture of a company absolutely dictates the attitude to complying and embracing ABPI requirements, so this is why good compliance needs effective leadership and good leadership needs effective compliance.