The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Assembly

In light of recent changes to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s governance, Julia Robinson spoke with members of the RPS Assembly and their peers to find out who they are and what experience they bring to their role.

The RPS Assembly members

There have been significant changes to the governance of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in 2016, with the departure of Ash Soni and election of Martin Astbury as president, Sid Dajani stepping down as treasurer and David Thomson taking his place, and a further reshuffle of the RPS Assembly.

The Assembly, which is responsible for the financial management and organisational governance of the entire Society, is composed of 11 elected members from the national pharmacy boards (two of whom are elected as president and treasurer), a pharmaceutical scientist, an academic and a lay member. But who are the national board members elected onto the RPS Assembly for 2016/17 and what do they bring to the table?

Martin Astbury – president and member of the English Pharmacy Board

“During the critical period of establishing the RPS and the General Phamaceutical Council I was fortunate to be supported by Martin in his capacity as vice-president. A true ‘grass-roots’ pharmacist, he always spoke with the common sense and experience required to find a way through the complex myriad of issues necessary to bring about the changes we worked so hard to achieve”

Steve Churton, past president of the RPSGB

  • Astbury has been a member of the Assembly since 2010 and was current RPS president since July 2016.
  • Member of the English Pharmacy Board since 2007 and vice president between 2007 and 2010. He was also a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) transitional committee in 2008.
  • RPS president prior to Ash Soni for the first four years since the demerger in 2010.
  • Community pharmacist since 1993.
  • Joined Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) council in 2003 and was vice president from 2007 to 2010.
  • In 2008 he was pharmacy’s representative on the Council of Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.
  • Astbury has been the RPSGB representative on the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) council since 2007 and the RPSGB representative on the FIP community pharmacy section since 2008.


David Thomson – treasurer and member of the Scottish Pharmacy Board

“I can vouch for David’s unique contribution to challenging the status quo, and championing the role of community and primary care pharmacists within the NHS and contracted services. Often this has led to improvements in service delivery at patient and policy level, which is testament to his communication skills in addition to his vision and spirit. Within and outside the health service, he will certainly continue to provide leadership and strategic direction to ensure the profession continues to develop”

Richard Lowrie, lead pharmacist for research and development at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

  • Member of the Assembly since its inception in 2010 and treasurer since July 2016. Previously a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) council where he was chair of the Scottish executive.
  • Previously chair of the RPSGB benevolent fund and continued in a similar role as chair of the trustees of Pharmacist Support.
  • Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) relocation programme board and investment committee and part of the RPS governance review short life working group.
  • Awarded an RPS Fellowship in 2010 and the 2015 recipient of the RPS Charter Award.
  • Currently lead pharmacist for community pharmacy development & governance, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde having previously been the director of pharmacy for primary care in NHS Glasgow.
  • Spent formative years in community pharmacy where he held various management positions in different locations across the country, latterly covering Scotland, North of England and Northern Ireland as a primary care services manager for a large multiple.
  • Member of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists and United Kingdom Clinical Pharmacy Association.
  • Founder member of the West of Scotland local practice forum.


Sandra Gidley – chair of the English Pharmacy Board

“Sandra is both inclusive and efficient as a chair, which can be a difficult mix at times. She created a board which worked well as a team” 

Anthony Cox, lecturer in clinical pharmacy at the University of Birmingham and previously on the EPB

  • First elected to the Assembly in January 2013, Gidley had a year off between July 2013 and July 2014 and has been an Assembly member since July 2014. First she was elected from her role as vice chair of the English Pharmacy Board and latterly in her role as chair.
  • Community pharmacist for 21 years before entering the world of politics.

  • Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey between 2000 and 2010 during which time she held posts with shadow ministerial responsibility for health and equality.
  • Member of the health select committee between 2001 and 2003, and then again between 2006 and 2010. 
  • Currently a self-employed locum in addition to some political engagement work.



Claire Anderson – vice chair of the English Pharmacy Board

“Claire has a holistic way of working that brings together academic rigour with encyclopaedic knowledge about international pharmacy practice and use of cutting-edge educational approaches and technologies. She brings a portfolio of excellence to her work with the RPS Assembly”

Alison Blenkinsopp, professor of the practice of pharmacy, Bradford University

  • Anderson has been on the Assembly since 2011.
  • Vice chair of the English Pharmacy Board since June 2015, a member of the RPS expert education panel and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) pharmacy workforce vision implementation group and fellow of the RPS Faculty.
  • Worked as a hospital clinical pharmacist and community pharmacist for seven years in the 1980s. 

  • Took up a joint appointment as a regional postgraduate tutor and a lectureship at the department of pharmacy at King’s College London before becoming a full-time lecturer at King’s College and completing her PhD, “Health Promotion by Community Pharmacists”, in 1997.
  • Currently a professor of social pharmacy at the University of Nottingham with a major research interest in the role of community pharmacists in improving the health of the public and pharmacy education. Also involved in the development of the integrated MPharm degree at Nottingham as head of year four teaching.
  • Past president of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) academic section, a lead on the global pharmacy education development team and was chair of an FIP working group on the pharmacy workforce. She is a lead member of the planning committee for the First Global Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Education conference in Nanjing, China, in 2016 and was awarded an FIP fellowship for her work in global pharmacy education development in 2015. Anderson is also on the RPS host committee for FIP Glasgow 2018.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.



Sultan ‘Sid’ Dajani – member of the English Pharmacy Board

“Never controversial for its own sake but, equally, not someone to follow the crowd, Sid consistently sticks to his principles. He relates all legislative and policy developments to the everyday practice of pharmacy and judges the merits of any proposal on its benefit or otherwise for patient care. He is undoubtedly a community pharmacist to his core”

Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general, Irish Pharmacy Union

  • Dajani has been a member of the Assembly since 2010 and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) treasurer and representative on the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) since 2011.
  • Started out in hospital before becoming a full-time locum in both community and hospital sectors.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, Dajani was secretary to two local pharmaceutical committees: Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster and Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
  • In 2005, he became a contractor and full-time pharmacist in Bishopstoke, Hampshire.
  • Dajani has had several hundred articles published and has had numerous TV, radio and newspaper appearances as a spokesperson for the RPS since 1997.
  • Between 2011 and 2013, Dajani was chair of the RPS transition programme board.
  • He has been chair of the RPS information management and technology group since 2012 and of the RPS Relocation Programme board since 2013. In 2016 he joined the Museum and Library Advisory board.
  • Dajani also serves on various industry advisory boards.


David Carter – member of the English Pharmacy Board

“David Carter is a leader of the pharmacy profession in the north east of England. He has been involved in pharmacy politics for some time; at local, regional and national level. What David particularly excels at is his ability to bring people together, even in difficult circumstances”

Mark Burdon, community pharmacist and member of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

  • Carter was a member of the Assembly between 2013 and 2014, and was re-elected in June
  • He spent five to six years as a hospital pharmacist before moving into community pharmacy, where he has been for the past 28 years.
  • Carried out a role as a part-time prescriber support pharmacist for several years.
  • Chair of Gateshead and South Tyneside local pharmaceutical committee since 2000.
  • Former member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain council from 2006 to 2010 where he was chair of law and ethics and briefly fourth officer.


Catherine Armstrong – member of the English Pharmacy Board

“Catherine demonstrates great leadership with a focus on breaking down the barriers between primary and secondary care as well as being a leading light in national and local pharmacy groups. She frequently works long hours and six days a week to ensure Gateshead Community Based Care (Pharmicus) develops a strong reputation for delivery of high quality medicines optimisation services to the community”

Anne-Marie Bailey, head of medicines optimisation, Newcastle Gateshead clinical commissioning group

  • Elected onto the Assembly in 2016 but was on it from 2010 to 2012.
  • Started out in community pharmacy.
  • Worked as a locum pharmacist with a half-day practice pharmacist session, shifting eventually to more practice hours and fewer locum hours. From 2009, became a full-time practice pharmacist covering all practices in one primary care trust area and from 2013, covering three clinical commissioning group areas (around 120 practices).
  • Currently lead pharmacist at Gateshead Community Based Care Ltd (Pharmicus) where she is also a board member.
  • Lead for RPS North East local practice forum (LPF).
  • Previously vice-chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain Northumbrian branch (pre-split and formation of LPFs).
  • Primary care representative for the Pharmacists’ Defence Agency (PDA) Union (Northern region) – formerly Primary Care and Specialist PDA Union membership group. Prior to that she was member of and secretary for the Locum group of the same.


Sibby Buckle – member of the English Pharmacy Board

“Sibby’s passion, dedication and commitment to pharmacy as a profession is something I have always admired. She has the patients at the heart of all she does in community pharmacy and she has continuously worked tirelessly with external bodies to influence the pharmacy profession and how this operates to ensure that patients and local communities are offered the best possible patient care both now and in future times”

Gareth Armstrong-Jones, general manager at Boots UK

  • First elected to Assembly in 2014, had a year out and then was voted back in for 2016.
  • On the English Pharmacy Board since 2012.
  • Started out as a pharmacy manager and then as a management trainee across several Boots pharmacies. Buckle went onto become an international buyer at Boots UK and worked her way up from group marketing manager in 1993 to public relations manager for healthcare, food and town centre planning.
  • Later became head of corporate affairs for Crookes Healthcare Ltd, the UK over-the-counter division of Boots Health International.
  • Founding member of the Community Pharmacy Action Group.
  • Was selected as an East Midlands candidate for the 1999 European elections; she stood again in 2004. She then stood as a Westminster candidate in 2005 for Liverpool Walton, and again as a European candidate in 2014 for the West Midlands.
  • Continued as a locum community pharmacist during this time as well as a pharmacy tutor at the University of Nottingham.
  • Rejoined Boots in 2005 as a group pharmacy manager, and since then has practised as a consultant pharmacist and now as a relief pharmacist.
  • Communications officer for local brand of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain since 1994, and chair from 2000.


Suzanne Scott-Thomas – chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board 

“Suzanne is always honest, fair and acts with integrity. I have witnessed her development within leadership roles in both her role as chief pharmacist for Cwm Taf Health Board and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Wales. She is a superb role model for the profession. I was therefore very pleased to second her nomination as chair of the RPS Wales Board this year”

Cheryl Way, principal pharmacist for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Welsh Pharmacy Board member

  • Scott-Thomas is in her second year on the Assembly as a result of her being chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board since 2015.
  • She has spent 30 years in hospital pharmacy. Her current remit as clinical director and head of medicines management Cwm Taf University Health Board covers the delivery of services in both primary and secondary care; managing the prescribing budget and commissioning community pharmacy services.
  • From 2004 to 2009, Scott-Thomas was chief pharmacist and medicine management lead for Merthyr and Cynon localities, Cwm Taf Local Health Board and chief pharmacist for North Glamorgan NHS Trust.
  • Member of the Guild of Hospital Pharmacists.
  • Member of Cwm Taf local practice forum.


Paul Harris – vice chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board

“Paul has been very successful in building a wide range of stakeholders, both within the profession and across healthcare as a whole. This has enabled him to be very successful in influencing the position of pharmacy within the healthcare system and demonstrating the role community pharmacy can play in delivering the aims of the government in Wales”

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist, Boots UK

  • On the Assembly since 2015.
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Welsh Pharmacy board, steering group member of RPS Aneurin Bevan local practice forum.
  • Community pharmacy background.
  • Currently healthcare partnerships manager with Boots UK.
  • Forum member of Community Pharmacy Wales.
  • Chair of the Welsh Pharmaceutical Committee.
  • Chair of Company Chemists’ Association Welsh management group.



John McAnaw – chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board 

“John is passionate about the development of pharmaceutical care, a key strategic priority for the profession in Scotland. He effectively utilises his position as chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board and in his role as head of pharmacy for NHS 24 to influence and support strategically and operationally the expanding role of the pharmacist in delivering pharmaceutical care in all settings for the benefit of the people of Scotland”

Gail Caldwell, pharmacy director, NHS Forth Valley

  • On the Assembly since 2015 through his role as chair of the Scottish Pharmacy board (SPB).
  • Vice-chair of the SPB from 2014 to 2015.
  • Head of pharmacy for NHS 24 since 2006.
  • Pharmaceutical advisor to the Scottish Ambulance Service leading the development of service policy, guidance and operating procedures relating to medicines use.
  • Completed preregistration year with Boots UK where he worked until 2002. Worked as a graduate teaching assistant at University of Strathclyde from 1997 to 2002 while studying for a PhD in pharmaceutical care.
  • From 2002 worked for an independent pharmacy (later to become Rowlands Pharmacy) and helped develop the clinical role of the pharmacist in the community pharmacy setting.
  • In 2003 secured a part-time lectureship in clinical practice at University of Strathclyde, combining education, research and practice of pharmacy and pharmaceutical care.
  • Member and contributor to NHS 24 national patient safety group, core clinical group, national clinical governance group and clinical advisory group and chair of clinical change governance group and research and development steering group.
  • Lead for telehealthcare and mobile technology workstream of the Scottish government vision and action plan ‘Prescription for Excellence’.
  • Chair of medicines management committee and member of the clinical governance committee, national clinical governance group, clinical advisory group.
  • Member of UK Ambulance Pharmacists Network.
  • Member of the European Society of Clinical Pharmacy research committee from 2012.
  • From 2006, member of NHS Scotland directors of pharmacy group, pharmaceutical care delivery group and national pharmaceutical forum (both Scottish government).
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2016, Vol 297, No 7892;297(7892):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201435

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