The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scottish Pharmacy Board (SPB) held its summer meeting via Zoom on 24 June 2020. In attendance at the meeting were Paul Bennett and Sandra Gidley, chief executive and president, respectively, of the RPS; Robbie Turner, director of pharmacy and member experience at the RPS; Alex MacKinnon, director for Scotland at the RPS; Aileen Bryson, deputy director for Scotland at the RPS; Helen Reilly, head of external relations at the RPS; Gino Martini, chief scientist at the RPS; Annamarie McGregor, RPS Local lead; and Amandeep Doll, RPS inclusion and diversity coordinator.
COVID-19 and the new normal
Turner said the RPS team had “delivered a masterclass” in responding to the challenge of COVID-19. As part of the COVID-19 response the Society had, he said, analysed 6500 pieces of intelligence; lobbied for pharmacists to have access to NHS mental health and wellbeing support; sought recognition for pharmacists as key workers; and called for visa extensions for pharmacists from overseas.
It was, Turner said, an “immense amount of work”, which was necessary at the time but has reduced in intensity over the last month. “We still have a COVID response team across the organisation: it is streamlined, but still responsive and reactive,” he added. The Society is now focused on business-critical matters and early careers, as well as maintaining a COVID response.
MacKinnon said that the team had “worked really hard” on advocacy and lobbying, and achieved “a number of wins”. The Society had, he said, pushed for COVID-19 risk assessments to be mandatory for all black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) employees, and, with the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA), had written to equality ministers across Britain calling for more support for the BAME workforce.
There are, he said, “still a few outstanding things, but we have created opportunities to go back to government with policy asks – we won’t let them off.”
Jonathan Burton, chair of the SPB, said that as the Society moves to a new normal, he would ask how the board feels “about different ways of working; how we structure our meeting”. Burton would, he said, put together a discussion document “and as a board, with the executive team, we can plot a way forward”.
Business as usual
In ongoing activities, the RPS is looking ahead to preparing its manifesto for the 2021 elections in Scotland and Wales, MacKinnon said. He also noted the publication, on 22 June 2020, of the Society’s Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) strategy report.
Amandeep Doll, RPS inclusion and diversity coordinator, gave a summary of the I&D strategy report, which had, she said, been informed by findings from the Society’s I&D survey and workshop. Doll noted that post COVID-19, “things changed”, pointing out the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on BAME communities, and that the effects of the virus had highlighted inequalities. The global Black Lives Matter protests have also brought a greater focus on systemic discrimination. All these events had, Doll said, “slightly changed our priorities”. As part of the strategy, the “next action is to set up an inclusive action group, wider than RPS membership”, which will “want to work with pre-existing groups like the UKBPA, but also create spaces for other groups”.
The Society will “need to think about how we work with the different boards on moving this forward”, Doll said.
Burton said that he was keen to think about how the board works with this strategy, both “as a board and on a Great Britain basis”, and asked board members to send their suggestions — adding that it is important to be “proactive” on the issue.
Finally, Burton noted that “two people we admire will be leaving in the next few weeks”, referring to the upcoming retirements of Bryson and MacKinnon. Bryson was due to retire the week following the board meeting, and MacKinnon at the end of August. Burton asked board members and staff to “join me in saying thank you to Alex and Aileen for their long service to the Society and to the profession at large”.
MacKinnon said that Bryson had been “a super colleague, friend and team member for almost nine years. Words cannot ever reflect Aileen’s contribution to the RPS”. He also thanked the board, saying that his time with the Society had “been a super pharmacy journey with lots of emotions — it has been a distinct pleasure and privilege”.
Bryson said that her retirement on Tuesday 30 June would mark “exactly nine years at the new RPS”, and said that working with the board “has been fantastic … Thank you all, it has been a pleasure and a privilege”.