How retired pharmacists can stay in touch with their profession

Retirement does not have to mean losing touch with your profession — there is a wealth of ways for pharmacists to stay connected.

Retired pharmacists can lecture students at universities in order to stay in touch with their profession

From running local practice forums (LPFs), to lecturing students and volunteering for charities and universities, many pharmacists remain deeply involved with their profession after retirement.

Tony Cartwright is one such pharmacist, and he believes it is important to stay intellectually active after stopping full-time work.

“You’ve been professionally active all your life,” he says. “But now you don’t work full time, you don’t work for anybody; you can please yourself what you do. You can choose an area of professional activity that interests you.

“For instance, I work for the health charity Coeliac UK, because I’m a coeliac, and I’m part of their health advisory network. That, to me, is a very good use of my professional expertise.”

Staying active

After a career which led him to manage a regulatory team at the Medicines Control Agency, the predecessor of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, Cartwright instigated the formation of a group that regularly brings together retired members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). In December 2010, over lunch with RPS chief executive Helen Gordon, he pitched the idea of a dedicated group for retired members that would help them stay in contact with the profession and each other.

With Gordon’s support, Cartwright set about recruiting a steering committee to help run the group. Now entering its fifth year, the retired pharmacists’ group has over 500 members and runs a full package of events, trips and meetings (see ‘The RPS retired pharmacists’ group’).

Cartwright — who recently stepped down as chair of the steering committee having led the group since its inception — says pharmacists have many different opportunities to pursue in retirement, including some that allow them to continue to contribute to the development of the profession.

Being expert patients

“I encourage retired pharmacists to be expert patients: most of the schools of pharmacy have expert patient sessions in undergraduate programmes,” Cartwright says. “For example, I’m a volunteer at the University of Hertfordshire. I turn up and explain my journey to diagnosis as a coeliac, what it means to be a coeliac, and how a pharmacist can help.”

In fact, Cartwright believes this could be a specific role for the retired pharmacists’ group. “Because of our age, we are consumers of medicines, so when people talk about medicines, some of those things we’re actually taking. So we could act as a group that is activist on behalf of older patients — an older patient champion,” he says.

“One of the things I feel strongly about is that regulatory requirements for clinical data on older patients are not really stringent enough yet, and I could see that we could advocate for improved provision of clinical data and adverse drug reaction data,” adds Cartwright.

“Often, a lot of new drugs are registered for particular patient groups, and exposure to older patients is relatively limited. There are very stringent requirements for paediatric use of medicines, but often clinical trials don’t actually involve older people a lot. I think the group ought to be an advocate in that area: making sure the clinical trials are done in patient groups more representative of those who will take the medicines.”

Pursuing interests

Retirement is also a chance to pursue areas of interest within pharmacy when previously one may have lacked the time, Cartwright says.

“I think people often get quite interested in pharmacy history, for instance,” he adds. “I’ve just been writing a history of the British Pharmacopoeia. I’d worked for the British Pharmacopoeia, way back in the 1970s, and I’m still on one of its official committees. 2014 was the 150th anniversary, so I thought it was a good opportunity to write something — the book is due to be published in early 2015.

“You’ve also got people here who volunteer in the RPS Museum, for example. They’ve got to finish cataloguing the collection before the RPS moves [to new premises], so it’s a massive job. There are several retired pharmacists who help with that.”

Serving on committees

Many members stay closely connected with the Society after retirement by continuing to serve on committees and groups. They can also act as assessors for the RPS Faculty.

Michael Beaman retired in 2007 after 37 years working for the NHS, first in hospital pharmacy and later as a commissioner, though he continues to work part-time on a freelance basis.

In 2004, he was appointed to the RPS Panel of Fellows — a committee that awards Fellowship to esteemed colleagues — and remained on it after retirement. He stepped down in September 2014 after ten years in the role.

He says he was attracted to the position because he has always fostered leadership and innovation in his and his colleagues’ careers. “It was an opportunity to recognise and honour this in other pharmacists too. That, in a sense, was one of the benefits of being a panel member, in that it gave you an opportunity to reward colleagues for what they had done for pharmacy.”

He was pleased to be able to nominate a recently retired pharmacist to the panel upon his departure. “I am very keen to see retired pharmacists made more use of by the RPS, particularly in the LPFs,” he says.


Some retired pharmacists become mentors to advise, support and counsel working pharmacists. Theresa Rutter has worked extensively in this role for a number of years. “I had the opportunity several years ago to be mentored by a friend who was doing a formal qualification in coaching and mentoring,” she says. “This supported my self-development in areas such as prioritisation skills and work-life balance. I made sustained improvements and realised the power of mentoring as opposed to other learning methods.

“This experience led to a request to mentor a colleague and after further requests, three via a mentoring database maintained by the RPS, I now mentor six pharmacists.”

Rutter meets those she mentors every month or three months, mostly face-to-face. “Their needs, experience and work environments vary and a critical aspect of the process is to help them identify the issues they want to focus on. The aim is to facilitate their self-development and so most of the input to the discussion generally comes from the mentee. Success comes from the mentee’s commitment to the relationship and the process.”

“I would encourage other retired pharmacists to think about mentoring; I’m sure they would find it as rewarding as I do, to use their skills to help others develop,” she adds.

LPF activities

The new chair of the retired pharmacists’ group, Beth Taylor, former chair of the English Pharmacy Board, says many retired members are still involved in running their LPF, and she encourages more to get involved.

In 2015, she would like LPFs to begin organising events specifically for retired members. “If the retired pharmacists’ group offers a programme of professional and social events, there is interest in that, but people don’t necessarily want to come from Liverpool or Manchester to London for our events. We want to see events established in parts of the country where there are retired pharmacists who want to do this locally.”

“I think what we’d like to kick-start is discussions or dialogue about this in LPFs. After all, there are more and more pharmacists that will be retiring in the next few years,” Taylor adds.

The RPS retired pharmacists’ group

The retired pharmacists’ group of the RPS, launched in 2011, is a forum for retired members to stay connected with their colleagues and the wider profession.

The group aims to help retired pharmacists, who can remain RPS members for a reduced fee, keep up to date with developments in the profession and with other members through a virtual network on the RPS website. The group also organises events, including an annual general meeting, and represents the views of retired members to the national RPS boards and the Assembly.

Trips are some of the most popular activities organised by the group. In 2014, these included a trip to The Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey; a tour of Oxford and the Bodleian Library; a visit to Waddesdon Manor and Gardens in Buckinghamshire; and tours of BBC Broadcasting House in Central London.

For further details about the retired pharmacists’ group, visit, or contact Beth Taylor at

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 24 January 2015, Vol 294, No 7846;294(7846):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067528

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