I was pleased to see Sid Dajani’s article on the issues of RPS election turnout and member engagement with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), published in the October 2017 issue of The Pharmaceutical Journal.
I fully support his suggestion for members to be able to raise issues at the RPS conference. Indeed, this could usefully be extended if time were set aside in the open session of every Board meeting to consider members’ concerns, support for (or disagreement with) Board or RPS decisions, or their suggestions for further action by these bodies.
In respect of member engagement with the RPS, while there was never a high turnout at the former local branch meetings, the current situation seems far worse. My impression is that the local practice forums (LPFs) have failed to develop as intended and there is a lack of local engagement. The virtual networks began with useful discussions on a number of issues but have now stagnated. Certainly, the eight ‘theme’ and three ‘location’ networks of which I am a member have very little activity.
There is a clear need for the local engagement of members — not only to share good practice and learning, but also to maintain friendships, create new friendships, encourage social engagement and share non-pharmacy interests — to become a local, supportive, community with a common professional purpose.
Finally, there has been much talk of the RPS being or becoming a royal college, and there is much emphasis on the Foundation programme and the Faculty. The Foundation programme provides excellent structured support for newly registered pharmacists to develop their careers in their first 1,000 days of registration. The Faculty provides a valuable means whereby RPS members can demonstrate their advanced level of practice. However, not all pharmacists are ‘high-flyers’, and not all will wish to have further post-nominals; some are content to practise within their narrower range of competence and, in doing so, they make a positive contribution to pharmaceutical services. Do such pharmacists view the RPS as an elitist body? Is that why some members choose not to engage with the RPS and some pharmacists choose not to become members? The RPS needs to embrace pharmacists from all levels of practice, from basic to highly advanced, to be truly inclusive of all pharmacists with all members feeling respected by the Society and by their fellow members.
Douglas Hancox, member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate how important both local engagement, influence and professional development are to pharmacists.
In 2017, the RPS English Pharmacy Board put in place a work programme to improve how we support Local Practice Forums (LPFs) and we recently hosted an LPF development day, which was attended by more than half of LPF leaders. We will help support LPFs to continue to build local engagement, and the energy and passion many LPF leaders bring to their role makes me confident we will see great things from them in 2018. However, we recognise more needs to be done to ensure more members feel more engaged with the work of the RPS. We will soon be launching a new programme in which we will be working with and through local grassroots to meet face-to-face with pharmacists where they live and work. Our recent webinars on revalidation and error reporting have both been really well received; you can expect more digital events from RPS in 2018. All of us at the Society are absolutely focused on making sure members feel part of an organisation with a clear and valuable purpose.
The discussion about how members can more easily raise issues and the role of RPS conference in this is an interesting one, and something we will explore further. Members regularly raise issues with elected board members and staff, and these help to inform the work that we do on behalf of the profession. Although a formal meeting is one route, I would encourage all members to contact the RPS team directly if there is something particular that you wish to discuss or raise.
At its core, the RPS wants our members to be the best pharmacists they can be. This will help the UK become the safest place in the world to use medicines. Supporting our members to continually develop as pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists is key to this, and the frameworks you mention help those who do develop to demonstrate this with pride. They will not be embraced by every member and that is absolutely fine.
The upcoming revalidation process will affect all pharmacists, and the RPS will offer assistance to every pharmacist through their professional journey — regardless of their stage of career or sector of practice — with our support for revalidation in 2018.
Director for England, Royal Pharmaceutial Society