When seeking nominations for election, I spoke to many pharmacists at different career stages. What shocked me is how many have left or decided not to renew their membership. This had nothing to do with recent controversies over directorships, FIP or Royal College status. Some wanted the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to take on roles outside its remit; that of a trade union or the PSNC. But most commonly cited was a decision made on a lack of perceived value. They don’t use the services or feel the advocacy provided is worth the membership fee.
There are many membership organisations vying for our attention. As our professional leadership body, the RPS is unique. It sets the standard of excellence in pharmacy practice and drives the profession forward. It can lobby government and work with other organisations, free from the conflicts of interest inherent with representative bodies or trade unions. In my early career, I relied heavily on its resources to guide and shape my practice, and while I seldom require that support now, I feel indebted and wish to give back.
Of course, people are free to prioritise how they spend their hard earned income and we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis. Perhaps the RPS has tried to be all things to all pharmacists for too long and needs to refocus on its raison d’etre. If apathy toward the RPS grows, it will be catastrophic. We are stronger and more influential together.
Some have said it is pointless to run for election. That the influence of the national boards is negligible and to change direction is like steering the Titanic. I refuse to believe that. The governance structures require prompt review and reform. If the electorate vote for candidates with a desire for change, that mandate can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can tell you clearly what I stand for. I want an RPS that is more agile, more transparent, more accountable. I believe education is a core function and there is a clear and pressing need to develop career pathways for all sectors of pharmacy. We need support networks to ensure adequate supervision and clinical development as more pharmacists become prescribers. We must prepare for the many challenges of the clinical future ahead. I want an RPS that we can all be proud of and I need your vote.
Brendon Jiang, English Pharmacy Board candidate