RPS President will not seek re-election


Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) President Sandra Gidley will not be seeking re-election to the English Pharmacy Board this year. Sandra was Chair of the English Pharmacy Board from June 2015-2019 and has been RPS President since July 2019 – the first woman to hold this position since the new pharmacy leadership body was formed in 2010.


Reflecting on her time as President, Sandra said:


“I have had the double privilege of being both Board Chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board and President. I have sought to serve the profession through many difficult times – none more so than the current COVID-19 crisis, which has asked a lot, in some cases far too much, of our profession.


“I leave with a sense of optimism about the future but I do not underestimate the work that remains to make sure all sectors of pharmacy get the recognition they deserve.


“I could think of so many reasons to continue, however, I do want to be clear about the reason I have chosen not to stand for election this year.


“I have always been a strong supporter of a maximum number of terms for an elected board member. I strongly believe that this is good governance and that it brings new thinking into the organisation. I cannot think of a better way of demonstrating my commitment to this than to stand aside myself, with the hope that new candidates will be successful in this election.


“Over the last two years I have been extremely proud to have been President of an organisation which has led the way on inclusion and diversity in pharmacy and has started to think with clarity about its future.


“I know our CEO Paul Bennett and the Executive team have the full backing of my colleagues on the Assembly to take forward a new strategy for RPS that we will be launching soon


“I shall miss the company of so many good colleagues on all the National Boards as well as the staff, but with a third grandchild on the way, I have plenty of diversions to look forward to. I will also have a chance to recharge my batteries and think about how I can contribute to the profession in the future.


“Thank you to those who have supported me – and to those of you seeking election, I wish you all the very best of luck.”



A vision for community pharmacy in Scotland


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland has today published a new report, Pharmacy 2030: a Vision for Community Pharmacy. The document, which is now open for consultation, is the first of a planned series of visions for pharmacy in 2030.


Views are being sought from a wide range of groups, including pharmacists, technicians, contractors, other health professionals, patients and the public, with the consultation open until 1st July 2021.


Clare Morrison, RPS Director for Scotland, said:


“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world and it has changed health care. This is why pharmacy needs a new vision. Not because previous strategies weren’t good, but because we need something now that reflects our changed world. Today’s publication is the first step in creating that vision.


Pharmacy 2030 describes a future where community pharmacies will remain the place from which people get their medicines, but the pharmacist’s role will be transformed. Pharmacists will be more clinically focused on supporting the safe and effective use of medicines. Patients will be offered a conversation about their medicines with every single supply, and pharmacists will routinely use clinical examination and prescribing to deliver person-centred care. The report explains how pharmacy will tackle health inequalities that have come to the fore during COVID. Importantly, it describes how all of this will be underpinned by better use of data, digital infrastructure and proper workforce development.”


Ian Rudd, Director of Pharmacy, NHS Highland, and chair of the Directors of Pharmacy Group said:


“I welcome this report from the RPS on its vision for Community Pharmacy. It highlights many key issues for further discussion across the profession in Scotland. I would encourage all pharmacists to join with the RPS in the conversations that are to follow.”


Jonathan Burton, Chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, said:


“As the only pharmacy organisation with members across all sectors of pharmacy, RPS is well-placed to engage with the profession and create a single vision for the whole of pharmacy. Having first published a vision for community pharmacy, we plan to publish further visions on other areas, including GP practice, hospital, and non-patient facing roles such as academia and industry. Then later this year, all of this work will be brought together into a single new vision for pharmacy – Pharmacy 2030 – which will demonstrate how the whole profession can work together, and with the wider multi-disciplinary team, to deliver seamless, person-centred care for patients.


“It’s vital that our vision reflects the views of everyone involved, so I would encourage anyone with an interest in the future of pharmacy to get involved and share their thoughts.”



Urgent clarification required about registration assessment



The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is seeking urgent clarification from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) following concerns raised about booking arrangements for the upcoming registration assessment.


The call comes after there has been some confusion about the arrangements for candidates who wish to sit the assessment this year.


Responding to the concerns, Gail Fleming, Director for Education and Professional Development, said:


“With just three weeks to go until the assessment, this is incredibly difficult for provisionally registered pharmacists who have worked so hard to provide the best possible care for patients throughout the pandemic.  It is important that there is sufficient capacity so trainees avoid having to travel any significant distance to take the assessment, especially during a national lockdown. We are also seeking confirmation of the timing of assessment sittings which assure the integrity of the assessment.


“We have contacted the GPhC to seek urgent clarification on this matter. Trainees will be focused on their exam preparation and must not have distractions such as trying to find a test centre. It is critical that this issue is resolved quickly.


“Once again, we are so incredibly proud and grateful for the dedication shown by all provisionally registered pharmacists during this difficult period and the huge contributions they have made throughout COVID-19.  They are continuing to work extremely hard to ensure the best possible care for patients and we all should be doing everything we can to support them.”



What is your opinion on how the registration assessment has been handled this year? 




RPS to review fellowship process


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is examining its fellowship processes. They have stated that this is to ensure the process is ‘fair and equitable’. The move comes as part of their inclusion and diversity strategy.


In particular, RPS is reviewing their fellowship nomination and appointment process. RPS have said that this is to ensure that any barriers to eligibility are removed. To check there is consistency in assessing how members have made an exceptional contribution to pharmacy, RPS is taking the following action:


  • Invited Fellows to submit their equality, diversity and inclusion data through an RPS survey and will review how they collect this in the future.
  • Remove the naming of the nominee and those nominating them from each application at the next fellows panel meeting.
  • Produce a more structured nomination form and consider its accessibility
  • Provide all existing and new Fellow Panel members with unconscious bias training
  • Develop a Fellows Panel which is increasingly representative of the diversity of its members
  • Have clear guidance on what achievements should be considered.


RPS Chief Executive Paul Bennett said:


“We are fully committed to embedding inclusion and diversity across RPS and reviewing our processes is part of this. I know what an honour it is to receive this accolade and we want to ensure the exceptional talents of all pharmacists are recognised in a consistent way.”


Chair of the RPS Fellows Panel Dr Gill Hawksworth said:


“I welcome this review. We want to ensure fairness and equality are at the heart of our assessment process so that excellence can be celebrated regardless of individual backgrounds.”



RPS express ‘deep concern’ to GPhC about registration assessment


On February 3rd 2021, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) gave almost 70 pharmacy trainees just six weeks’ notice they will not be able to take the March 2021 registration assessment if they are in a country with a time difference greater than five hours from the UK.


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has written to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to express its deep concern for these trainees and to urge the regulator to urgently reconsider its position. RPS has highlighted the importance of ensuring these trainees are not discriminated against and are provided equal opportunities to UK-based trainees.


In a letter written to the Chair of the General Pharmaceutical Council Nigel Clarke the Chairs of the RPS Scottish, Welsh and English Pharmacy Boards, Jonathan Burton MBE FRPharmS, Suzanne Scott-Thomas FRPharmS and Prof Claire Anderson FRPharmS said the following:


“We are writing to raise our concerns regarding the recent communication from the GPhC to 69 trainees informing them that they will not be able to take the March 2021 registration assessment in countries where there is a time difference of more than five hours from the UK.


“We have previously raised our concerns regarding the delayed registration assessment and the impact on provisional registrants within GB. We are saddened that we must write to you again, this time in relation to international trainees.


“We were astounded that trainees have been given six weeks’ notice of this change and are unclear how the inability of the chosen provider to deliver a synchronised assessment overseas was not identified during the procurement process in 2020. Expecting candidates to travel into the UK in the midst of a pandemic is unreasonable, especially to take an online exam. In addition, many trainees will be unable to secure the correct visa and there are financial consequences of travel and quarantining, as well as the significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing.


“We have been contacted by many of the trainees affected, some of whom left the UK only because they believed that they could take the assessment in their home country. You will be aware that the consequences of a delay are enormous, particularly for UK pharmacy graduates in Hong Kong who require full UK registration to be able to practise.


“The trainees are committed to the profession and have demonstrated initiative in the solutions that they have proposed. These include being prepared to take the assessment at unsocial hours, identifying alternative centres that will allow them to sit such as the British Council in Hong Kong or to take a proctored assessment at home.


“It is important that these trainees are not discriminated against and are provided equal opportunities to UK-based trainees. We urge the GPhC to urgently reconsider its position and revisit the balance of risks in the same way as other examination providers have done.


“Our Boards are also seeking assurances from the GPhC that the current intake of pre-registration pharmacists will not be subjected to the same level of disruption with their assessment. Confirmation of the date and arrangements for the June assessment would help to allay these concerns.


“We hope that you will view our comments positively and review the current arrangements urgently to ensure that the principles of equality and fairness are upheld. We repeat the request in our previous letter that there should be more flexibility in access to online proctored assessments taken outside of Pearson Vue centres.”


You can read the full letter here.


Mental health impact of the pandemic on pharmacists revealed


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, in partnership with charity Pharmacist Support, have published their second annual survey on mental health and wellbeing demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 and workplace pressures on the mental health and wellbeing of pharmacists.


Over half (54%) of pharmacists believed that COVID-19 had impacted their mental health and wellbeing to a partial extent while nearly a third (31%) said it had to a significant extent.


When asked more generally about their work, 72% of respondents said it had negatively affected their mental health and wellbeing, with reasons given including increased demand, inadequate staffing, long hours and a lack of breaks and time off. This figure is comparable with the 2019 survey (74%), showing that whilst COVID-19 may have exacerbated these issues, they pre-existed the pandemic.


The survey revealed that 40% of respondents felt their mental health was OK, but 33% of respondents said it was not good and a further 10% said it was poor.


A huge majority (89%) scored as being at high risk of burnout – an increase from 80% in the 2019 survey. One-third (33%) of respondents had considered leaving their job, while a further third (34%) had considered leaving the profession.


Whilst over half (57%) of employers provide mental health and wellbeing support, 44% of pharmacists reported feeling uncomfortable accessing it. Reasons given for this centred on confidentiality and trust, particularly stigma, judgement and the potential for it to harm their career. Of this group, those working in community (51%) were most reluctant to access support, compared to colleagues in general practice (46%) and hospital (31%).


RPS President Sandra Gidley said: “We’ve all felt the consequences of extra pressures brought by the pandemic. It’s been incredibly tough and caused enormous stress and increased workloads for pharmacy teams. We need to ensure support is available for those who need it, whilst preventing problems from happening by tackling some of the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.


“Flexible opening hours have been enormously helpful in managing workloads and should become a permanent adaptation, rather than a short-term measure. Having the right staffing levels and skill mix in the pharmacy to support safe and effective patient care should be a given. And being able to take breaks, to relieve the pressure or for CPD to learn something new, is essential.


“Our campaigning led to access to NHS wellbeing services being granted to pharmacists and their teams for the first time. We want to see this continue beyond the pandemic and extended to include access to NHS occupational health services too. It would be deeply unjust if support for the country’s third largest health profession, who have worked so hard this year, was simply switched off once the immediate crisis is over.


“I’m alarmed that a third of respondents to our survey have considered leaving the profession. The most valuable asset the NHS has is its workforce. Retaining highly skilled healthcare professionals such as pharmacists is essential to patient care. We must also work together to ensure the profession becomes more inclusive and is able to attract people from all backgrounds. We’ll be taking these results to Governments, NHS bodies and pharmacy organisations across Great Britain to create the change that’s needed.”


Chief Executive of Pharmacist Support Danielle Hunt commented:


“Pharmacist Support is acutely aware of the negative impact the pandemic has had on our pharmacy family’s wellbeing. These survey results provide us with crucial insight which will help us develop our support over the coming year.


“A clear concern for us from these results is that there are a number of barriers to accessing mental health and wellbeing support for pharmacists and pharmacy students. Although the reasons behind this may not always be clear, a large percentage point to a lack of awareness and concerns around confidentiality and stigma. Worryingly there is also a gap in awareness amongst BAME respondents of employer or NHS-funded occupational services.


“As the profession’s independent charity, delivering confidential support and providing a safe space for those in the profession to share worries, we feel there is more we need to do over the next year to ensure people get access to the support they require. Although we are delighted to see an increase in general awareness of Pharmacist Support, with only 13% of respondents saying they knew lots about the services we offer, we recognise that there is a still great deal of work to do here to build a better understanding of the support we provide.


“With such a high percentage of people within the profession at risk of burnout, it is essential for the charity to continue to work in partnership with organisations across the sector to raise awareness of our support, as well as raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing. After a successful campaign this year, I am delighted that the charity will again be running a wellbeing awareness campaign in 2021. We will continue to expand our wellbeing offering with the development of new events, training programmes, and resources, kicking off with joint events with the RPS in the run-up to Christmas.”