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Published on 19 December 2008

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December update – new professional body prospectus

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December update new professional body prospectus

November 28th saw the arrival on the doorstep of the long awaited prospectus for the pharmacy profession’s “New professional body” (NPB). It was the result of the hard work of Transcom, an independent committee, chaired by Nigel Clarke, commissioned by the RPSGB to develop a prospectus for the new Professional body. They had worked over the previous 6 months and had set out to re-engage disenchanted pharmacists by making recommendations for a bright new future. The President of RPSGB had previously warned that the prospectus was a final chance to influence the blue print for the NPB and it needed to be treated seriously.

The strap line on the orange front cover of the prospectus “A landmark moment for PHARMACY”, set the tone of the 24 page document, punctuated with a selection of photographs, pictures and diagrams. An accumulation of 15 months of consultation with members and stakeholders www.transitionalcommttee.com now contains both an English and Welsh version of the prospectus.

It was only just hot off the press when the pharmacy media immediately sought the first views of a range of pharmacists and whether they would join or not, whilst the President of RPSGB assured members they would see a change between the old Society and the NPB. He said: “I think the worst mistake that people can make is to assume that what happens in the future is going to bear a resemblance to whats happened in the past”.

He went on to say the society had listened to its members and that he was encouraged that re-engagement had begun and he would shortly be asking the profession what issues it believes the NPB should address as priority. He also reminded potential members in reaching their decision to join that they should bear in mind that future services would rely on a diverse set of skills and competencies and the NPB has a remit to deliver the quality, competence and confidence of members.

The prospectus begins by re-enforcing the proposed roles of the NPB – “Helping you to achieve excellence” by leadership, representation and advocacy; professional development, education and support and in addition professional networking and publications.

It goes onto highlight how the NPC will “help you” and explain why pharmacy needs a new professional body by grasping the moment to raise the status of pharmacy, realising professional and career aspirations as we become a more clinical profession at the forefront of 21st century healthcare. It is envisaged that this will be achieved by the clear membership benefits of support for CPD and revalidation, whilst seeking to advance the science and practice of pharmacy to ensure we keep pace with the developing technology and new demands on the profession.

There is a very good diagrammatic explanation of what services and professional support (library, publications, information, practice guidance) the NPB will offer members in terms of the proposed roles. This includes services such as the museum and benevolence. It clearly shows the importance of revalidation support, career support and research and how they overlap across the proposed organisation. Major points highlighted are the use of “post nominal” such as MRPharmS (which will only be able to be used by members of the NPB) research and communication with the profession.

The prospectus then goes on to discuss local and national roles whilst highlighting leadership and management and very importantly specialist practice, a vital function for the NPB. There is a section clarifying and highlighting who will be able to join besides practising, non-practising and retired pharmacists for example by having membership categories for pharmaceutical scientists, pre-registration and pharmacy students, international and honorary members. In addition it discusses other organisations being affiliated with the NPB such as the Association of pharmacy technicians and possibly the BPSA, where their members will not be NPB members but the association will have a business based relationship.

Alternatively other organisations may become hosted by or become part of the NPB, for example, the College of pharmacy practice, Institute of pharmacy management or the United Kingdom clinical pharmacy association and other specialist groups. My personal view is that the academic and intellectual integrity of these organisations is crucial to a successful professional leadership and development body in the future.

The proposed structure (including the back bone of the NPB, the national boards) and (voluntary) membership fees are featured near the end of the prospectus. These appear along with an invitation to send in views before January 9th 2009 and an explanation about next steps, which will be to reflect these views in the final shape of the proposed NPB and the amendment of the Society’s charter in order to establish the creation of the NPB. The work of the transitional working group to oversee the transition has already begun.

So what are the key issues?
As expected some pharmacists were reported in the PJ as being supportive but not surprisingly raising concerns about fees (cost and value for money) and not just paying to keep the extra letters after their name, whilst some were concerned about many pharmacists currently having their fees paid for them by employers and this may not happen with the NPB. Others supported it in terms of the synergy between science and practice whilst some were worried about diluting the membership with non-pharmacists or in fact actually changing perception to encourage members to join.

There was good support from some for the local practice forums who will make sure pharmacy education is joined up and will have the responsibility for confirming the credentials for specific practice qualifications supported by the general curriculum and specialist curriculum committees of the NPB. This is not surprising as these forums are likely to become the local focus for professional revalidation, which will become compulsory under the new regulatory reform. Points were raised however about the democracy of the assembly not being elected by the members but being nominated by the national boards, whilst some voiced concern about lack of representation of elected members on the assembly and the ability of the national boards being able to deliver. It was however encouraging in the PJ to see statements such as “Once in a generation opportunity” and “Joined up leadership” referring to the chance to unite the profession through collaboration of the many groups and associations in pharmacy.

From personal unofficial feedback from engaged pharmacists from different practice areas some further confirmation may be required about a few issues that several pharmacists appear to not be clear about whilst supporting the general thrust of the prospectus. These include clarity about post nominal’s and not being able to call yourself a pharmacist, more about what is on offer for retired members, clarity about the whom regarding the word “appointee” with reference to lay appointee in the structure, confirmation about exclusivity and non NPB members if employers and LPCs are involved in local practice forums and finally professional support around patient safety issues such as guidance on minimum numbers of staff for the workload.

As long as it was understood that only “pharmacists” would be eligible to vote or stand for election many I have asked supported non pharmacist pharmaceutical scientists and academics as membership categories. By referring to the transcom website for more details pharmacists from all levels of practice were assured that the NPB could support their CPD and revalidation.

The use of generic terminology in the prospectus and the lack of specific detail as in the reports of the working groups (which can still be found on the transcom website) have, as expected, drawn these key issues to the surface. The stewardship and ownership of the professional development and specialist curricula in partnership, the local collaboration for assessing curricula, portfolio building and assessment (progressive practitioner development) and practitioner credentialing towards advanced practice are still there, vital to continuing pharmacy education in order to deliver the clinical services envisaged in the new white paper.

The prospectus provides a tremendous opportunity to create a new professional body that will respond to the needs of pharmacy in the future.

One glance at the long list of signatures and supporting associations in the transcom reference group, highlighted at the end of the booklet, will be able to tell you the range of interests which have had input into this document. Everyone now has the opportunity to feedback on five points in the prospectus, raise any concerns or send comments by posting the sheet in the prospectus or online at the transcom website.

You have only to read the up – beat positive comments from The school of pharmacy, university of London – to indeed realise that this is a blueprint which sets out an inspirational plan for a leadership body that is inclusive of the profession, from pharmacist practitioners to scientists engaged in medicines research. It will drive change that will develop further clinical services and build on the skills of pharmacists’.

So there we have it. Has all the waiting been worth it? Yes!
Have I responded? You bet I have! Will I join? Of course I will!
What is more important, have you responded? Why not?
It is your future as well as that of the future generations of pharmacists.

As Martin Luther king once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands at times of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. Where do you stand?

Gill Hawksworth
RPSGB past president



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