Pharmacists call on RPS to declare views on pharmacy supervision

Community pharmacists are asking for a robust, clear and unambiguous position from the RPS on the issue of pharmacy supervision.

Martin Astbury, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)

A group of pharmacists is demanding that members of the RPS Assembly eligible for the presidency of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) declare where they stand on controversial proposals to allow pharmacy technicians to supervise community pharmacies.

Supporters of the Pharmacists in Pharmacy campaign group have requested a personal meeting with each Assembly member before Tuesday’s (18 July) election. 

Some 509 community pharmacists from across the sector have signed a letter calling on members of the Assembly to declare their views around the proposed changes to community pharmacy supervision.

The government’s Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board is considering allowing pharmacy technicians to supervise a pharmacy in the absence of the pharmacist as part of its current review of medicines legislation. 

The campaign group opposes the move, believing that a pharmacist should be present in a pharmacy at all times and that handing over authority to a technician “deprofessonalises and depersonalises” the supply of medicines and the face-to-face advice role that a pharmacist traditionally offers.

“A pharmacy without a pharmacist is just a shop,” the letter says. “With serious on-going cuts to community pharmacy funding in England, now is not the time to play with such an important and intrinsic facet of our professional and national life.” 

The letter goes on to criticise the RPS as an organisation claiming many community pharmacists — which it argues make up the lion’s share of RPS membership — are “disillusioned” with the organisation, which it says has “put the development of new roles for a relatively small number of pharmacists ahead of the needs of the vast majority of this profession”.

It warns it is determined that the RPS takes its concerns seriously. It says unless that happens, future support for the RPS from the sector — which it claims is already dwindling — will fall even further. It calls for “a robust, clear and unambiguous position from the RPS and its national boards on the issue of supervision”.

The RPS issued a statement responding to the letter and confirmed it has “always believed that a community pharmacy requires a pharmacist to be present” but it admitted that in England, reforms to pharmacy and budget cuts “have had a big impact”.

It said it was committed to ensuring future investment for community pharmacy and added: “We have listened to our members, and they have told us that, now more than ever, the sector should be coming together around a positive, constructive agenda that makes it clear how community pharmacy will be an integral part of the reformed NHS structures across GB.” 

On 18 July, the 14 members of the RPS assembly will vote amongst themselves for a new president. The current president is Martin Astbury

The RPS statement in full:

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has always believed that a community pharmacy requires a pharmacist to be present.

We recognise that for community pharmacists in England, recent reforms and funding reductions have had a big impact. The RPS will not shy away from asking for investment in community pharmacy as we know this service is vital to the safe delivery of quality healthcare supporting the public’s health and wellbeing.

We hear from others that we were influential in securing the £7.5 million investment to facilitate community pharmacy access to summary care records in England, and similar access in Scotland and Wales. There is much, much more to do and I know my colleagues on the three National Boards remain committed to securing investment and growth in community pharmacy.

The RPS support for investment in new roles in settings such as care homes, A & E and GP practices has helped lead the way in the integration of community pharmacy and the wider NHS. These new roles have led to greater referral for MURs and the NMS in England and DMRs in Wales as well as improving the professional relationships between GPs, social care and community pharmacists.

We have listened to our members and they have told us now more than ever the sector should be coming together around a positive, constructive agenda that makes it clear how community pharmacy will be an integral part of the reformed NHS structures across GB. This is where we will be concentrating our energy and focus, and we invite everyone in pharmacy to work with us to secure a bright future where pharmacists leading their teams in community pharmacies contribute fully to safe patient care.

  • When originally published this story referred to presidential candidates. The wording now more accurately reflects the governance process for electing a president to the Society.
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2017, Vol 299, No 7903;299(7903):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203153

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