The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) 2021 annual general meeting (AGM) was held on 26 May 2021. For the second time, the meeting was held via Zoom, with more than 100 delegates in remote attendance.
Chief executive’s report
Paul Bennett, chief executive of the Society, started proceedings by reflecting on 2020 and how the RPS had had to adapt quickly to change its way of working.
“2020 was shaped for us as it has been for everyone by the global pandemic,” he said.
Bennett highlighted the work the Society had done to support its members through the numerous challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic, from taking action to address the lack of personal protective equipment to providing trusted information to make sure that pharmacists had “parity of recognition” with other healthcare professionals.
“Throughout [the pandemic] our focus was, and continues to be, on what our members need from us; recognising that very many have been, and continue to be, on the very front line.”
Bennett mentioned the “raft” of online training materials that had been produced to support pharmacists working across all settings during the pandemic, including those in care homes and critical care settings.
He highlighted how, despite the difficulty of working remotely, the RPS had successfully launched Critical Illness in January 2021 — which is free to access for all NHS and MedicinesComplete customers — as well as several new print editions, including an updated Palliative Care Formulary, and new British National Formulary (BNF) and BNF for Children.
Remote working also presented an opportunity for the RPS to develop its online offering, Bennett explained, with around 250 — mostly digital — events delivered over the past year, with more than 18,000 attendees and 28 livestreaming webinars attracting more than 12,000 pharmacists. The RPS’s total coverage across all channels had also increased by 25% in 2020, compared with 2019, he added.
“The NHS needed to take real steps to retain the current workforce and attract new pharmacists … action must include equal support for their health and wellbeing.”
Jon Jarrett, head of finance at the RPS, said that the organisation had “outperformed” its financial plan for the year ending 31 December 2020, with an operating surplus for the year of £0.5m.
He explained that 2020 had been the second year of “good growth” for the Society’s investments and that the net surplus after investments was £1.4m.
In terms of the outlook for 2021, Jarrett said that the focus would be on “building a more viable and sustainable RPS for the future”. He explained that revenues in certain areas remained under pressure, owing to external market conditions affecting events, advertising and sponsorship, and print in particular.
Member recruitment and renewal rates were “strong” in 2020 in comparison to previous years, owing to RPS leadership during the pandemic and free-to-attend events and webinars, and cash flow was “healthy”, he added.
“Overall, the RPS has performed exceptionally well in a competitive market, but ongoing vigilance is required,” said Jarrett.
Andre Yeung, who took over from Mahendra Patel as RPS treasurer in July 2020, concluded the financial section of the AGM by pulling out main areas that he thought members should be aware of, regarding the finances of the organisation.
Yeung highlighted the positive cash flow seen during 2020, which he said was “incredibly pleasing” from his perspective, considering the many challenges presented during the year. He also mentioned the way RPS staff had adapted to a difficult operating environment and offered his thanks for that.
Yeung also mentioned that he “had one eye” on ensuring that any investments made were done with sustainability in mind.
During the AGM, three motions were put forward by Society members. The first, moved by Stephanie Bancroft, proposed that the RPS should “publicly commit to encouraging activity by RPS Locals, where they do or can exist, and de facto prohibition of locally run events (potentially online and, in due course, fact to face)”, as well as to “urgently restore some autonomy to RPS Locals via their steering groups, including provision of an effective way for them to contact RPS members in their area”. When put to a vote, the majority were in favour of both parts of the motion.
Next, Tohidul Islam proposed that “where votes are held in RPS Board and Assembly business, these should be recorded against individual board or assembly members, and recorded in the minutes”. He also asked that “when officers and Assembly members are elected, votes should not be by secret ballot – votes should be recorded against the individual Board of Assembly members and recorded in the minutes”, as well as that “all votes should be recorded against individual Board or Assembly members, and recorded in the minutes of the open business”.
In a subsequent vote for all three parts of the motion, the votes were close between ‘for’ and ‘against’, but the scales were tipped to those in favour.
Finally, Nahim Khan proposed to “allow all members to contribute to all responses to consultations from the RPS, and to publish views of members to understand how the response was formulated”.
When it was put to a vote, 67% voted ‘for’, 23% voted ‘against’ and 11% abstained from voting.
Following the result of the motions, Sandra Gidley, outgoing president of the RPS, said that the Assembly “will reflect and give them further consideration”.
Closing proceedings, Gidley thanked RPS members for the work they had done during 2020; “a year like no other”.
“Individual pharmacists working in so many different areas went above and beyond, and their efforts and adaptability have been noticed by many.
“Our job now is to capitalise on that moving forward.”