Our national pharmacy boards are the backbone of the RPS

Following the publication of the 2021 national pharmacy board election results, Paul Bennett, chief executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, reflects on the importance of good engagement with the Society's election process.
cartoon of people stood behind podiums

The 2021 Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) national pharmacy board elections have shown us that more members than ever were prepared to step forward and stand before the electorate on a range of issues. I would like to pay tribute to all 44 of those who demonstrated the courage of their convictions, whether they were ultimately successful or not.

My RPS colleagues and I very much look forward to welcoming the newly elected board members at their first meeting in June 2021. And, to those who were not successful, I do hope the experience will encourage them to consider standing again and working with us in some other capacity. It is important to the future of the RPS that good people stand for election to the boards, as it is here that policy is determined, and also work with us as part of our advisory groups and committees.

This year we had more places available than in previous years because of the deferral of 2020’s elections, owing to the pandemic. A total of 24 members were successfully elected from a field of candidates that was significantly more diverse than in previous years. This is important to all of us at the RPS — we need members from all career stages, all sectors and all communities to contribute and shape thinking if we are to reflect the views and opinions of those we serve. The RPS is enriched when we have greater diversity of representation and this continues to be an area of extreme importance.

While pleased with this increased interest in standing for election, there is more we still need to do to encourage greater participation in the elections across the broader membership. As someone who is a member myself and has always voted (and indeed was chair of the first English Pharmacy Board of the then Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain), I believe it is important that every eligible member exercises their democratic right to determine who represents them and who is determining policy.

This year’s overall turnout was 13.1%: up by just over 1.5% compared to 2019, which I find encouraging. It is similar to the turnout that, I believe, is typically experienced by professional leadership bodies. Of course, we will do everything we can to continue to improve engagement, including working hard to explain what the RPS does, the influence and responsibilities of the boards, and to better connect with members.

Every membership organisation that does not require mandatory membership needs to demonstrate relevance day in, day out. At the RPS, we understand that we must keep representing the views of pharmacists, how we work to put pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare and strive to ensure we are world leading in the safe and effective use of medicines.

I often refer to the boards as the ‘backbone’ of the RPS and, while the executive team have responsibility for all operational matters, board members make the final decision on policy — supported by the team of well-informed colleagues whose job it is to help elected members in considering various views and opinions, and then get on and implement what has been agreed through our work plans.

The country directors and their respective teams work exceptionally hard to fulfil the wishes of the boards, and that will continue with the new boards when they sit in June. We’ve got some great people joining us and we are all looking forward to working with them.

So, to all our members I would say: if you have ever thought of standing for election to one of the boards and are passionate about shaping pharmacy, but didn’t feel confident enough to have a go this time, there will be another opportunity. Please be assured that the RPS is a friendly organisation, your opinions will be valued, respected and listened to, and there is no shortage of enthusiasm and passion from the team to work constructively with you.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2021, Vol 306, No 7949;306(7949)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.86047

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