The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scottish Pharmacy Board (SPB) gathered at the Society’s Edinburgh offices on 23 January 2019 for its first Board meeting of the year. Present at the meeting were Paul Bennett and Ash Soni, chief executive and president of the RPS, respectively; Alex MacKinnon, director for RPS Scotland, Gail Fleming, RPS director for education and professional development; Jeremy Macdonald, RPS director of technology; Harvinder Sondh, RPS director of innovation and enterprise; Robbie Turner, RPS director of pharmacy and membership experience and Helen Gray, RPS head of people. Harry McQuillan, member of the RPS and chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), was a guest at the meeting.
Introducing the SPB’s business plan for 2019, MacKinnon, said that the focus in 2019 was on doing more to support members. Engagement efforts will focus on students and pharmacists in their early years of employment, although MacKinnon emphasised that pharmacists at other stage of their career would not be not neglected.
The Board will continue to push for read/write access to health records, as well as for protected learning time. McKinnon added that members are also keen that the Society focuses on promoting the role of the pharmacist across all sectors. “As a professional body we need to do more to promote the public’s understanding of the role, now and in future,” he said.
MacKinnon also expressed his thanks to the Scottish team for its contribution to the a success of the RPS local engagement model, which held 55 events across Scotland during 2018.
“I would like to see RPS local become the platform for enablement of tools, guidance and standards”, adding that he would like to see Board members working closely with RPS local so that “members get to know them, can engage with and lobby them, and get updates from them”.
Chief executive’s update
Although the Society’s 2019 budget is a “deficit budget” of around £1.2m, Bennett said that 2018 had been “financially and reputationally very strong” for the RPS — including high demand for content from the Pharmaceutical Press — and there was “prudent control over finances in leadership”.
The year ahead will be challenging, Bennett said — the restructure of the executive team to focus on directorates was a significant change, and all functional directors were now finalising their goals, alongside clear key performance indicators. He said that the Society “will maintain real focus on members, strive to be a member-centric organisation” while also being customer-focused.
“We have commercial opportunities, and it is right that we understand customer expectations,” he added.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, told the Board that the Foundation framework was being reviewed ahead of a relaunch, with a national survey on the subject due to begin in the near future. The RPS Faculty currently has 486 members — almost half of whom are in hospital practice — but numbers are declining, Fleming said, with some members expressing support for Faculty principles but reporting that the process of resubmission needs to be simpler (and others questioning whether there should be a need to resubmit at all).
Board member Ailsa Power said that the annual £100 fee for Faculty resubmission was the “biggest complaint” she’d heard from members.
Under the lead of Christopher John, head of workforce development at the RPS, the directorate plans to clarify the purpose of Faculty and review existing processes. Fleming confirmed that a steering group will be formed within the next month.
Fleming also spoke about the Education Governance Oversight Board, which was established in autumn 2018 to oversee pharmacy postgraduate education and training and is chaired by Peter Kopelman. At the Board’s second meeting in December 2018, the UK’s chief pharmaceutical offers had asked the RPS to lead on plans for how consultant pharmacists can be credentialed. At the third meeting, scheduled for May 2019, a workplan will be formulated.
Sondh told the meeting that his directorate’s purpose is to “grow the organisation — in membership, professionally and commercially”. He said the directorate will develop new income streams, in addition to membership and publishing, and a clear strategy around the RPS’s international aspirations.
Sondh also explained how income from the Society’s international work is reinvested into the Society, pointing out that this message needs to be made clearer to members.
Adding to this, Turner said the RPS has a “significant number of international members” who need to be provided with services — and beyond the direct commercial opportunities of international work, “raising the bar for everyone in pharmacy is good for us”.
Bennett also commented, emphasising that the “enterprise” part of Sondh’s directorate was critical.
“Everything we produces costs something,” he said, adding that historically the Society had given away its material for free. “That’s stopped. It is critical that we generate profit and reinvest in members.”
Policy and consultations
Aileen Bryson, policy and practice lead at RPS Scotland, said that five Board members, together with Bryson, had formed a ‘Protected learning time’ (PLT) working group, which will outline the principles and priorities of PLT across Britain.
The SPB will then craft a statement outlining the need for PLT in the pharmacy profession, with the ultimate aim of developing a national statement from RPS on the professional need for PLT at all career stages.
The Board will work with stakeholders, including NHS Education for Scotland and Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) to explore existing PLT models, and a member consultation will be conducted.
The Board discussed the content of a draft, Britain-wide policy statement on online pharmacy services. The SPB agreed that online pharmacies should make the responsible pharmacist’s name known to patients. The board also agreed that when ordering pharmacy medicines from an online pharmacy, no extra patient ID beyond that provided in the online ordering process should be needed.
Future of ‘closed business’
McQuillan presented a personal member enquiry at the SPB meeting. Emphasising that he was speaking as an RPS member, and not as a representative of CPS, McQuillan asked the Board to consider holding all business in open sessions and to discontinue closed meetings, as it was not being member focused.
“As a member, I view that I’m a stakeholder,” McQuillan said, adding that he therefore has a right to know what is being discussed.
“Members must feel are welcome, and I’m not sure private sessions help that,” he said, before concluding by asking Scotland to take the lead in no longer holding confidential business sessions.
Asked by John McAnaw if CPS held private sessions, McQuillan responded that they do but that if any member asks what was said in in such a session, “by return I will tell them”.
Board member Johnathan Laird told McQuillan that he agreed with his suggestion, and had in fact raised the same point himself in the past.
Soni said that it was a positive step that McQuillan was able to give his opinion on the matter. “We should hear members raise questions about why we do things,” he said.
McAnaw said that although there was not time to make a decision at this meeting, “reflection on [the matter] is worthwhile”.
MacKinnon concluded that an “instant decision was not needed” but that a discussion would now be started.
- The next meeting of the RPS SBP was scheduled for 24 April 2019.