Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The RPSGB: to split or not?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is a unique body in healthcare. It is responsible for both regulating and representing pharmacists. Doctors have the GMC to regulate them and the BMA to represent them, while nurses have the NMC to regulate them and the RCN to represent them. Pharmacists just have the RPSGB. The Society was founded in 1841 by Jacob Bell with the aims of 'uniting the profession into one body, to protect its members' interests and to advance scientific knowledge'. Regulation was added on in 1868 and was built upon, culminating with the Pharmacy and Poisons Act in 1933 which established the Statutory Committee as a disciplinary body.

Although the Society was originally established to represent it's members, it seems to have been focussing more on regulation than representation. The Statutory Committee has a far better reputation as a disciplinary body that the GMC, and you can take a look at its decisions here. The representative side seems to have slipped somewhat recently. The BMA and RCN are both far more effective as representative bodies than RPSGB. How often do you see pharmacists in the media, compared with doctors and nurses? And consider the extension of prescribing powers to nurses and pharmacists. This was announced in November 2005, after a long consultation. Nurses were ready to go almost straight away and I've already seen quite a few prescriptions from nurses. It took the RPSGB until August 2006 to come up with a curriculum for pharmacists to train as independent prescribers: almost a year!

The Society needs to cast off the regulatory role and get back to doing what it was originally founded to do: represent pharmacists. This needs to be done as soon as possible, to protect the assets of the members before the government tries to cream them off. Individual pharmacists also need to blow their own trumpet more. This article about nurses applies even more so to pharmacists. Some community pharmacists also monitor warfarin therapy, and are better placed than nurses to do so, due to our education and we do not need lots of specialist training.

Pharmacists need to claim back our Society, grab any opportunities that come our way, and let the public know what we do.


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