Sid Dajani’s letter (
The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 13 April 2017), prompted partly by my letter two months earlier (
The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 8 February 2017), was an interesting read. I expressed a concern that The Pharmaceutical Journal was failing to appeal to members and that it is out of touch and, while I agree with Dajani that it cannot make all members happy all the time, I think that generally it is failing to appeal to the majority of members most of the time.
Dajani asserts that it is a valuable member resource but I, and a number of experienced colleagues, disagree. And my understanding is that the journal is one of the largest costs for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) after local practice forums. It is not making money. In fact, I believe it is losing members’ money every month — are we happy with that? As my question about finances was ignored in the publisher’s response to my original letter, we do not know how much money it is costing us.
So, given this, do we want to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that The Pharmaceutical Journal is aiming to have an international appeal rather than deliver for its loyal paying members?
In his response to my original letter, the publisher alluded to a members’ survey: “Around 75% of RPS members were either satisfied or very satisfied with the print edition of The Pharmaceutical Journal,” he said. However, it turns out that only 524 members responded to the July 2016 survey.
He also promised to “publish the results alongside a content analysis as soon as we can”. Two months further on, nothing.
Dajani also said that the organisational structure of the journal and the content were two separate issues. However, a previous editor of The Pharmaceutical Journal, Douglas Simpson, some of his ex-colleagues and a number of past presidents of the RPS disagree — and so do I.
There is an opportunity here: let us be more open and transparent, consult members properly and discuss the issues (not just this one) thoroughly.
I know Dajani has many years’ experience as a member of the English Pharmacy Board and is an ex-treasurer of the RPS, so I respect his viewpoint. However, we need to be open to the possibility that the perceived member benefits are not appealing enough to members.
I want a strong RPS that we are all proud to be members of: we need to add value, increase appeal, communicate better and make members feel part of the organisation.
Sid Dajani responds:
I apologise if my first response around the strategic direction of The Pharmaceutical Journal seems facile to Ross Ferguson. The journal has always been an emotive issue inside and outside the RPS and I have never known any time when everyone was ecstatic with it — whether it was a considered a parish magazine back in the 2000s to a much more scientific one as it is now. There will never be a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution, but the RPS has always strived to ensure it continues to adapt to a changing profession, remain relevant to all three countries and the various sectors, become a better member benefit and tool of resource for recruitment and, of course, be a two-way communication tool. There have been some undeniably challenging and profound changes, not all good.
Advertising, which was a financial boon, dropped as far back as 2002. Investment was needed to give us a seamless social and paper platform, and, with that, came operational and structural changes. Losses reported in the annual report could have been far worse. It is turning around and rather than lose it, I am glad we are continually trying to save it for the next generation.
Many surveys, back as far as during Doug Simpson’s reign, have consistently endorsed The Pharmaceutical Journal as a member benefit and one of the main reasons why people join the RPS. This, along with the museum and the library, are considered jewels in the RPS crown.
We both agree that The Pharmaceutical Journal has to be more member orientated and have utmost relevancy to members, especially because it is a vital link between us all. Where we disagree, though, seems to be around whether it is or should be a member benefit and its operational structure.
I was not part of the interview panel that appointed the publisher and, likewise, my preference, without hesitation or reservation, would be a pharmacist with the right experience, for obvious reasons. However, this cannot be a compulsory requisite. Surely, it is about the best candidate with the best support, a strategic direction which matches members and with the pharmacy boards’ input. In these times of digital and social media platforms, it is not just about having a pharmacist editor, it is about how best to involve members in its direction so it can be more relevant, self sufficient and more profitable than it is now.
Member, RPS English Pharmacy Board