The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) national pharmacy board elections have closed for another year, and it appears not much has changed.
Earlier in the year, The Pharmaceutical Journal was excited to see a high number of new faces (many of them young) standing for election. This gave us hope that the younger generation — who usually engage the least with the RPS elections — were starting to take an interest in the political side of their professional body. However, the voter turnout from young members remained low: fewer than 30% of voters are under 40 years old.
We also predicted that, given the negativity surrounding the current direction of pharmacy — at least in terms of funding — there would be an interest for the membership to elect new faces to bring fresh perspectives to the pharmacy boards. This, again, was not the case. Only one new person was elected onto the English board, and only two new members joined the Scottish pharmacy board.
Overall voter turnout has dropped from 11.48% in 2016 to 10.86%, despite a record number of candidates standing for election this year (notably in England, where 17 candidates fought for 5 seats). Disappointingly, in Wales, there were not enough candidates standing for election to require a vote, meaning all four candidates who stood were elected unopposed.
Even Scotland, which, traditionally, has had better engagement with the RPS election process, saw a drop in the number of voters compared with 2016 (409 members in 2017 versus 489 members in 2016).
There are a number of things to consider when reflecting on these statistics. Despite a larger variety of candidates from different backgrounds, the membership who exercised their vote appeared to have voted for the status quo. Does this simply mean they are happy with the direction of travel of the RPS and want nothing to change? Member apathy towards the pharmacy board elections continues to plague the RPS, despite its efforts and those of The Pharmaceutical Journal to give coverage to the proceedings and the candidates in print, online and on social media. Do members not consider the ability to vote in board elections to be of benefit? Also, did wider matters, including the community pharmacy funding cuts in England and the UK general election, distract members and therefore affect the voter turnout?
Steve Churton, former president of the RPS, puts it eloquently when he says “beyond the size of the membership, it is the quality of member engagement that is of paramount importance”.
On this front, we clearly have a long way to go.