Nine representatives were elected to the English board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) last Friday (May 14), along with eight to the Scottish board and seven to the Welsh. C+D caught up with some of the new and returning board members to discuss their aspirations for their term.
Funding needed for pharmacy education
Gaining the most votes out of any candidate (867), Claire Anderson was re-elected to the English Board, having previously held the position of chair. The professor of social pharmacy at the University of Nottingham told C+D she was “absolutely delighted that people believe that my experience counts and it’s a great endorsement of what we’ve been doing thus far”.
Asked what she hopes to achieve in her coming term, Professor Anderson said she wanted to “be able to support all our members”, highlighting the large changes taking place currently in the NHS and in community pharmacy.
Professor Anderson said she would advocate for “the major changes needed in education, and working hard to make sure that we get proper clinical funding for the MPharm [course] – but also that the legacy workforce are also able to become independent prescribers and to develop their practice as well, particularly in community, where they haven’t had the funding previously”.
Wanting to “continue to work hard to represent the profession to government”, she commented that the COVID-19 pandemic “has given us an opportunity to think differently”, as “community pharmacy has been the window to healthcare to the world”.
“We mustn’t lose this as society opens up again,” Professor Anderson said. “We must really take forward this opportunity and advocate for change and to make the profession much, much better for the future. Because I think the perception of the profession is very high, so we must really capitalise on this.”
Maintaining relevance “biggest challenge”
Michael Maguire, a community pharmacist and NHS England advisor who contributed to the creation of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), was also elected to the English board with 675 votes.
He is “absolutely delighted” with the result, adding: “There were some great candidates that didn't make the cut, so I’m not underestimating how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to make a difference.”
Mr Maguire explained in his campaign letter that after being a member since 1989, he had left the RPS for a few years and had found it had little effect on his working life. However, in that time he had realised that “we absolutely do need an effective, vibrant RPS” and so he hoped to make the value of the organisation clearer to others who had felt disaffected.
He told C+D he wanted to make the RPS “the organisation that grassroots pharmacists look up to, feel a part of, and feel listened to”. In turn, “the RPS will have that greater strength of mandate to really lead the whole profession”, he said.
Asked how he plans to reintroduce the value he felt the RPS had lost in the eyes of its members, Mr Maguire said there were two parts: the “actual value” provided to members and “how that value is perceived by members”, which is “one of the fundamental building blocks that we need to get right, before we even look at ways to increase the tangible value to members”.
Mr Maguire said that previously “there were times when I felt that [the RPS’s] offers weren't really on my radar, and my concern is that if I am your typical pharmacist, then this may be the case with others as well”. He pointed to RPS training on the CPCS, “which is cutting edge, gives a vision of integrated working, and is exactly the sort of stuff that is relevant for today. I'd like to see more like that”.
Resources for becoming independent prescribers
Paul Summerfield, a locum pharmacist, said on being elected with 603 votes that he was “passionate about ensuring that every pharmacist is given an equal chance and equal access to resources [that] will enable them to become independent prescribers if they wish”.
“This is, in my opinion, vitally important as we move to a profession where prescribing will be at the heart of what we do,” he added. He hoped to ensure that the RPS board “is seen to be transparent, accountable and most importantly, that the new board must act solely in the interests of the members of the RPS, free from hindrance”.
Thorrun Govind, a community pharmacist and youngest elected RPS board member, said it was “a privilege to be part of this profession” upon being re-elected to the English board with 680 votes.
“We’ve got a number of pressing issues as we emerge out of this pandemic as a profession,” she added.
Alisdair Jones, a primary care network pharmacist and lead pharmacist for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Folkestone, thanked the 627 people who voted for him onto the board. He said he would “continue to be at your disposal should people have any views they wish to make known”.
“I can't promise things will change overnight but I will work with the other board members to try and implement the changes we envisioned,” he added.
Supporting Wales's push for “increased clinical role”
Independent prescribing and the introduction of more clinical services will also be a matter of interest for community pharmacies in Wales going forward, according to Dylan Lloyd Jones, a superintendent pharmacist who was elected unopposed to the Welsh pharmacy board.
“The new pharmacy vision for Wales and the COVID pandemic has opened many opportunities and challenges in all areas of the profession. I hope the RPS will be able to continue to support the profession to capitalise on these opportunities and help pharmacy evolve into the future,” Mr Jones added.
Gareth Hughes, superintendent pharmacist at Sheppards Pharmacy – who was also elected unopposed – said: “As a community pharmacist, I’m really passionate about supporting members as we transition into an increased clinical role in the community, especially with the new opportunities for independent prescribers and digital applications.
“I want to engage with pharmacists on what they need from their professional body and work towards achieving this. I would like to see greater collaboration between pharmacy sectors to improve patient outcomes while ensuring this is all built on the foundations of the wellbeing of pharmacy teams.”
Two UKBPA members on board
Two UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA) members were elected to RPS boards: Erutase Oputu to the English board with 658 votes and Lola Dabiri to the Scottish board with 157 votes.
In her campaign letter, Ms Oputu said she hopes to “sustain the focus on inclusion and workforce wellbeing, so that pharmacists across all sectors feel the tangible benefits”, as well as push for “closer links with academia to build the research skills of pharmacists to evidence the great work that pharmacy does to benefit patients”.
Following the results, Ms Oputu tweeted that she was “humbled by the trust that has been put in me”.
Ms Dabiri wrote following the election that she was “delighted” to be elected onto the RPS board after a previous attempt and that she intended to “do my best” for the profession.
“Delighted” candidates elected to RPS Scotland board
Catriona Sinclair, director at Spa Pharmacare in Brora, Scotland, was elected to the Scottish RPS board with 195 votes.
“I’m delighted and honoured to have been elected. There are huge challenges that face the professional body and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to instigate positive changes that can make the RPS into an organisation all pharmacists want to join, engage and interact with,” she told C+D.
Pharmacist Audrey Thompson was also elected to the Scottish board, receiving 243 votes in the process. She thanked those who voted her on Twitter as soon as the results were published, despite being on holiday.
Breaking my rule of not thinking pharmacy thoughts while on holiday to say thank you to everyone who voted. I’m delighted to be joining the Scottish Pharmacy Board and look forward to working with other members and to taking forward priorities of the members. https://t.co/3CiQjFLWMV— Audrey Thompson (@greenslates) May 14, 2021
Record number of candidates
Commenting on the results of the elections to the three RPS national pharmacy boards, RPS chief executive Paul Bennett said the organisation had seen “a record number of candidates” in 2021’s elections, “which is fantastic”.
“The diversity they embodied and the sheer range of topics they engaged in with members is a positive step forward,” he continued.
Mr Bennett added that he was “very encouraged” to see voter turnout up to 13.1% of RPS members from 11.47% in 2019, out of 22,679 ballots that were issued.
The full list of election results can be viewed here.
The headline for this article was updated after publication to specify that all three national pharmacy boards – in England, Scotland and Wales – elected new members.