So the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) national pharmacy board elections are over for another year. Now begins one of the most important phase: the election of the president of the RPS.
This year, however, we are not looking for who will be most photogenic wearing the chain of office at the International Pharmaceutical Federation congress, or someone who believes it is “my turn”, or a career politician looking for a good job with a national body or big company afterwards. We need someone prepared to fight the corner for pharmacy in a cash-limited, hostile environment.
Since the mid-1990s there have been countless ‘pilot studies’ and local initiatives. There are awards ceremonies every year by pharmacy bodies, suppliers, trade organisations, etc. I have won some myself. But how much has our role changed? Every one of these initiatives is judged by its impact on patients but how many have been incorporated into daily practice? Despite this evidence, still we achieve less than a sentence in the government’s NHS ‘Five year forward view’ document. The new hierarchy must take us forward on this basis. The membership is as apathetic as ever, evidenced by a dreadfully low turnout for the recent elections.
The task ahead is blindingly obvious. The chicanery unearthed in the judicial review on the community pharmacy funding cuts in England is an absolute disgrace. The funding cuts do not just affect pharmacy owners, they affect everyone in community pharmacy, including locums and employees. Safe staffing levels and work-based stress are issues that are made worse by the cuts and the manner in which the Department of Health set about this dreadful business is a disgrace. It was condemned by the judge who made the ruling.
Therefore, the new RPS English Pharmacy Board must set about attacking this state of affairs. The time for cosy relationships ceased when the cuts were first announced in December 2015. The evidence of what we can do is in the public domain and the new board must seek to promote this with utmost vigour. Doing so will be the biggest step in encouraging new membership.
There are already anecdotal reports of pharmacies struggling to pay suppliers. Closures will start and accelerate as banks pull credit lines. RPS members will be harmed professionally and financially. To the board members: this is not a time for vanity or relying on past relationships. The members are watching you.