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RPS has no current plans to become a royal college, says EPB chair

Pharmacy News

RPS has no current plans to become a royal college, says EPB chair

By Neil Trainis

English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind has revealed the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has no plans at present to become a royal college.

In comments that appeared to deviate from what many regard as a long-held ambition of the organisation since the split of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 2010, Ms Govind (pictured) tweeted that there are "no plans in (our) current strategy to be a royal college".

This was in response to former EPB member Liz Butterfield, who asked if royal college status was “a real ambition” for the RPS and suggested progress towards achieving this has been “painfully slow".


Ms Govind's response prompted speculation as to why the RPS may have abandoned what many regard as a core ambition – several previous presidents have spoken in favour of becoming a royal college – as well as comments on its perceived failure to communicate its position to members. 

Pointing out that there are 23 medical royal colleges in the UK and Ireland, former RPSGB president Steve Churton asked: “Pharmacy is not represented and apparently there is now no strategic intent for it to be. Why?”

He argued that royal college status was important in terms of how pharmacy is regarded by the government. "Look at how professions with respected royal colleges have been able to bring about and respond to change," he said.

Former RPS president Ash Soni, who has long advocated a route towards royal college status, said that although his “aspiration" was "always for RPS to be a royal college," he had been told this was "not a priority".

Former chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge said he was struggling “to understand why a science-based, clinical profession would not want to be led by a world class royal college that strives for excellence in patient care, science and the profession itself.”

He added: “Progress was being made, including in education.”

The Society's five-year roadmap, which sets out its goals up to 2026, including influencing and shaping pharmacy practice, policy and education and becoming a “world leader in the safe and effective use of medicines,” says nothing about royal college status.

'Our activities are typical of a royal college'

Defending the RPS’s position, Ms Govind said it was “about more than a name” and insisted the organisation was committed to education and development despite the RPS considering making the role of director of education and professional development, a position held by Gail Fleming, redundant.

When asked by Independent Community Pharmacist why it has no plans in its current strategy to be a royal college and what the ramifications of not becoming one might be for the RPS, the professional leadership body said it was able to function effectively as if it had royal college status.

“The RPS Assembly have agreed a strategy that strongly recognises our role in the educational space. We are proud of being a Royal Society with a royal charter, which enables us to pursue our activities which are already typical of a royal college, without seeking to pursue privy council agreement to be renamed a royal college for at least the life of the 2021-26 strategy,” it said.

“Our existing charter and royal patronage enable the RPS to take forward our ambitions in education. As a Royal Society we are able to take forward all functions associated with the medical royal colleges on behalf of the profession without changing our name.”

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