This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
The current Royal Charter effectively establishes the RPS as the professional body for pharmacists. The RPS website describes the Society as having championed the profession since 1841 and their role in promoting pharmacy in the media and to government.
However, there is a tension in these objectives as there is effectively an underlying assumption that pharmacists are a homogenous group with common needs and concerns. While it is certainly possible to identify common goals that motivate all pharmacists, such as safe and effective use of medicines and providing great patient care, it is also clear that pharmacists themselves don’t always see themselves as a homogenous group. Indeed, how many pharmacists describe themselves as pharmacists without adding their sectoral group (community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, primary care network pharmacist etc)?
This is also made clear in comments by pharmacists that the RPS doesn’t understand their needs, doesn’t represent their sector or their concerns. Interestingly, these comments come from all sectors!
If the profession as a whole sees itself as different multiple groupings, then how can pharmacists and the RPS as an organisation have a unifying vision to share and champion externally?
I believe that the new Integrated Care Systems currently being developed offer a real opportunity for all of us in pharmacy to reset the paradigm. The question is: will we rise to the challenge ahead or retreat into the familiar and lose the prize?
The levers for change are there, place-based care, recognition that patients with complex needs require a multidisciplinary approach, awareness of the burden of pill taking, concern about the hard to reach patients, the need for outreach to those living with deprivation or isolation, all problems which community pharmacy in particular are recognised as well placed to respond to. The recognition that patients move up and down their personal pathway, requiring different support and treatment at different times and in different places, by different healthcare professionals, is changing the way healthcare professional education and training, including that of pharmacy staff, is delivered.
The pharmacists of the future will be sector agnostic, able to move along the pathway with the patient, with the skill sets and competencies to deliver clinical care in the patients’ context.
The shift in pharmacy education and training is already in train. Will we as a profession take this opportunity to see ourselves once more as pharmacists, without a label to divide us?
Mary Evans, election candidate, English Pharmacy Board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society