A new look for local engagement

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has begun implementing changes in local practice forums, encouraging board members to act as links between local groups and the Society and transferring local group bank accounts to the Society for central management.

Local practice forum event in London from 2016

Changes to local practice forums (LPFs) are being rolled out across Wales, Scotland and England.

Working with existing LPF steering groups and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) members, the Society has come up with new templates, or models, for how these groups should operate.

LPFs — once described by Howard Duff, former director for England, as ‘outposts of the national pharmacy boards’ —  are intended to help members engage with the RPS in their local area. They provide networking, peer support and professional development opportunities. LPFs have been around in their current format since 2010: before that, regional links with the Society revolved around local branches.

The RPS has surveyed LPF activity and found that while some local forums hosted a regular schedule of events, others were quieter, offering just one gathering a year.

The RPS wants to iron out this variation so that all members, regardless of where they live, have an equal opportunity to engage with the RPS through their local forum — hence the development of new templates.

A fundamental part of the new format for engagment is a greater emphasis on digital communication — more webinars, livestreams, and video recordings of events — to support members who, because of their location or personal commitments, can’t easily attend events in person. Board members across the three nations are also being encouraged to act as links between local groups and the RPS. On the administrative side, local group bank accounts are being transferred to the RPS for central management.

Below is an outline of how the changes look across the three nations.


In Wales and Scotland, LPFs have been rebranded as ‘RPS Local’ groups. Local co-ordinators funded with an honorarium will be responsible for planning and delivering a programme of events. Local co-ordinators will be encouraged to work with the existing steering groups, says Jodie Williamson, professional development and engagement lead with RPS Wales. “We (RPS Wales) will make the introductions. But local co-ordinators will drive the activity.”

Welsh RPS Local groups will deliver at least five face-to-face or virtual events each year. Events that map to at least five Foundation or Faculty competencies will be funded by the RPS, regardless of whether the idea for the event came from the RPS team or was proposed by the RPS Local coordinator. Event ideas created by local co-ordinators will need to be approved by the RPS.

Social events will be self-funded by the group (for example, through an entry fee or sponsorship).

The RPS Wales team is creating a set of activity packs on relevant subjects — antimicrobial stewardship, for example — so that groups will have a few ready-made events to choose from as they get going.

At the time of writing, six of the seven local groups in Wales have already shifted to the new model. One group has chosen to forgo a co-ordinator and decided to continue with the steering group model for now — albeit with financial matters devolved to the RPS — and will move to the new style of engagement in 2018.

Williamson hopes that local co-ordinators across Wales will support each other: “I’d like to see our co-ordinators forming networks, and sharing ideas amongst themselves.

“The next six to eight months will be a transition period; we are open to tweaks based on what members tell us. We’re all on the same journey.”


Source: Courtesy, Annamarie McGregor

Annamarie McGregor, practice development lead at RPS Scotland, says that Local groups are a good way for members to influence the RPS.

Scotland used to have five regional local practice forums but, says Annamarie McGregor, practice development lead at RPS Scotland, these “were just too large geographically to allow effective engagement”. So now members will be able join one of twelve RPS Local groups. Eleven of the groups are aligned to mainland NHS Boards, and there is an additional national group covering the islands and remote and rural areas.

Scottish Local groups will host five annual events. One or two of these will be developed by the RPS Scotland team to align with the Society’s campaigns and priorities. “We will also support the RPS Local Coordinators to develop any local events that meet local need,” says McGregor. “Events will be mapped to the Foundation and Faculty frameworks, and will highlight relevant RPS resources.”

“We will pilot this for one year and adapt based on feedback. LPFs in the past have hosted number of really popular events, and there is lots of good work to build on.”

McGregor emphasises the interactive relationship that Local groups have with the Society, saying that local coordinators and groups will “provide an opportunity for members to influence the RPS, to ensure it is responsive and relevant to our membership”.

There are still RPS Local coordinator roles vacant in the Borders and the Highlands. Members interested in applying for these roles may contact annamarie.mcgregor@rpharms.com.


Source: Courtesy, Christopher John

Christopher John, project lead for local engagement in England, emphasised the role of well-run local groups in offering peer support

Local engagement groups in England will choose from one of three annual activity models, according to what fits their current circumstances.

Model A is designed for active groups, and will feature at least four events each year: one based on an RPS campaign; one event allied to RPS Foundation or Faculty; one developed in collaboration with an external pharmacy or allied organisation, and one event with particular local relevance. These four events will be funded by the RPS. Extra events may be hosted, but groups will need to liaise with the RPS for additional funding for these, or arrange for alternate support (for example, through sponsorship or entry fees).

Model B is intended for groups with a strong link to their local school of pharmacy, and these groups will deliver their programme of events as described in Model A — plus an additional event for students and pre-registration pharmacists, in collaboration with that school.

Local groups with little or no current activity will be encouraged to adopt Model C, intended to support moribund areas to get off the ground and start building an engagement programme. The RPS will consider delivering events in these regions, and inviting local members to attend. Model C should be an interim stage. Such groups would ultimately be expected to move to one of the other two models.

The models will be trialled throughout the rest of 2017, and finalised in 2018. 

England, unlike Scotland and Wales, will not have specially recruited local coordinator posts. Instead, English groups will have a planning committee (steering group), from which an identified person will act as a liaison with the RPS. A new member of staff, Gareth Kitson, has also been recruited to support the local groups. “This is an exciting opportunity to build on the work carried out by various members of the RPS team in strengthening the future role of the LPFs,” says Kitson.

“It is a privilege to help support and develop the LPFs and the excellent work they do providing developmental opportunities to our members.”

Christopher John, project lead for local engagement in England at the RPS, facilitated the RPS Local Engagement Task & Finish Group that came up with the three English models. He emphasises the personal support a well-run local group can provide. “I’d like [local groups] to feel more like an anchor point if you are new to an area, or newly qualified, where you can join in and meet local colleagues.”

John also hopes that the new approach will increase membership of local groups in England. “We want the groups to be more cross-sector, and to attract more young pharmacists.” Ultimately, he says, he hopes the new structures will help to “create a sense of belonging, and a cause, and provide colleagues to turn to.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2017, Vol 299, 7904;299(7904):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203380

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