Members must be consulted on the future of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)’s letter to members, which was reported in The Pharmaceutical Journal on 23 March 2022, is an object lesson in obfuscation.

As a former council member of the then RPSGB who fought against the arrogant, closed and unaccountable culture of the RPS’s predecessor body, and who was heavily involved in the creation of the current Society, it pains me greatly to see the organisation repeating the mistakes of the past.

Having read the president’s statement, I searched the RPS website in vain for publication of the background papers on which the Assembly based its decision not to pursue becoming a royal college. I assume that both the papers and the discussion were held in confidential business and are thus inaccessible to members.

To date, it seems that members’ concerns have been either ignored or obfuscated, which is precisely the approach taken by the (then) RPSGB back in 2003. In fact, so intransigent was the culture that it was only when the then chief pharmaceutical officers took a wrecking ball to the organisation that is was forced to change, leading to the demerger of the RPSGB and the creation of the successor bodies, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the RPS.

It was always the plan to create the RPS as a body akin to a royal college, with an intent to become the formally recognised royal college for the profession in due course. So, for this key strategic aim to be ditched without explanation or recourse to the membership beggars belief.

If none of the above has set off alarm bells at the RPS, then the recent announcement on 13 May 2022 by the four current chief pharmaceutical officers of their intention to initiate a review of professional leadership for pharmacy — which, among other aims, would be “to produce a blueprint for the purpose and functions of a pharmacy professional leadership body to best develop, support and deliver excellence in patient care and professional practice” — surely must?

As a hitherto passionate supporter of the RPS (who was closely involved in its naissance), I am clear that the last thing our profession needs right now is an extended period of navel gazing followed by the creation of yet another representative body. 

The decision to abandon the pursuit of royal college status and to shed pivotal members of the RPS staff must be shelved. The members (including the four chief pharmaceutical officers) must be fully briefed and consulted and, finally, any decision must be put to a democratic vote.

Graham Phillips, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Read more

Paul Bennett, chief executive officer of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), explains why the RPS Assembly has decided that the Society will not become a royal college in the immediate future: ‘Why the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is not seeking to convert to a royal college at this time

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2022, Vol 308, No 7961;308(7961)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.143624


  • Howard McNulty

    I left this on the Chief Executives article on the Royal College decision.
    You may not have seen it. I’m on board with what you say and am so disappointed how the Society has progressed.

    Howard McNulty 29/04/2022
    As a former Transcom member who supported the idea of a Royal College I was interested to see Mr Bennett’s perspective on this recent decision taken it seems without membership debate.
    Sadly my notes were shredded years ago but I hope these thoughts may offer a way forward.
    From memory the old dual role RPSGB was deemed unfit for purpose and it was suggested the profession needed a professional body akin to a Royal College. NB not necessarily a Royal College per se. Transcom felt the RPS without its regulatory role could do that by engaging more with other pharmacy professional bodies.

    I therefore reviewed how many of the Royal colleges ran to see what they offered and think I wrote to the PJ, but I cannot find anything I wrote before 2012 on the website. From memory I noted the following:-

    They set standards for practice and qualifications beyond those needed for professional registration with the regulator.
    They worked with the regulator on ensuring these met service needs.
    They supported members though training, publications, examinations, libraries etc
    Students could join for free or nominal sums
    Membership level was focussed on training grades with fees often linked to salary growth to help younger members join and progress.
    Fellowship was the aim after 8- 10 years or so and there were clear routes to gain that membership level often linked to a NHS Consultancy or GP status that were open to all.
    Most provided free continuing membership/fellowship to those over 70 or 75 thereby retaining their expertise for future generations, and enabling them to continue within their social and professional networks.
    The Colleges were run by elected Fellows with input from some elected members and students.

    I agree with the conclusion the new RPS does not need to try to become a Royal College. It could however move to operate much more like a Royal College than it does now.

    Our Fellows system needs a radical rethink. When I became one around 1991 I wrote thanking the President and asked what I might do to help the profession, but got no answer
    I have no idea how many members or Fellows the Society has now but suggest the balance needs to change.
    I am long retired and have gradually become disengaged, I am not into social media
    so I’m not clear what the Society can do or is doing to identify develop or improve standards that employers or regulators want.

    The Society might wish to commission research to see what employers and the regulator want from it and to investigate how Royal Colleges now work to see what can be done to mirror or improve as many of these roles and organisational arrangements as possible within the RPS without trying to become a College or Charity.

    Howard McNulty.

  • Graham Phillips

    Thanks Howard and, as ever, we are in furious agreement! KR Graham


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