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The RPS is losing its way


The RPS is losing its way

The RPS is at odds with the membership over its executive restructure and fading royal college ambitions, writes Pharmacy Magazine editor Richard Thomas.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is far from alone among professional associations that are watching on uncomfortably as membership numbers decline.

Some people are no longer willing to pay for what is sometimes called “the privilege of belonging” when they can connect so easily with like-minded peers through internet groups and social networks.

However, the real problems begin when a gap opens up between what the membership of a body wants and needs, and what that body is able or chooses to deliver as the external environment changes. The struggle for relevance then becomes existential.

All of which may begin to explain the huge backlash when we broke the news of the overhaul of the RPS executive, making the key role of director of education and professional development redundant.

This was quickly followed by the revelation that the Society had quietly dropped its long-standing aspiration to become a royal college – a direction of travel supported by many members – without actually telling anyone.

This was, as England’s former chief pharmacist pointed out, the RPS shooting itself and the profession squarely in the foot. 

It wasn’t that long ago that the then president Ash Soni told an RPS conference that with over 27,000 members at the time, he would like to see the organisation become the “second biggest royal college – maybe the Royal College for Pharmacy and Medicines” and was hailing the Faculty as the “backbone” of the move towards royal college status. How times change. 

The Society does plenty of good things. It has upped its professional advocacy game and everyone knows about its world-renowned publishing division... but pharmacists don’t join for the books.

The RPS must level with the profession about its plans and rethink them if necessary.

Oh – and bank the membership renewals as quickly as possible before people change their minds. It’s a long road back from here.

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