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Published on 2 April 2008

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Pharmacy in the UK


A new professional body for the whole “pharmacy family” is essential, according to “The Report of the Independent Inquiry into a Professional Body for Pharmacy”.

The report is the result of extensive consultation with the profession across the UK regions, and publishes its recommendations one day ahead of the government’s White Paper “Building on Strengths, Delivering the Future”, which proposes to establish a General Pharmacy Council (GPhC) to regulate the profession.

The report concludes that the present regulatory function of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has inhibited its role as a professional body. Respondents to the consultation reported a lack of leadership and representation from the body, to which all practicing pharmacists must belong.

“The relationship between regulator and regulated is never a cosy one,” said chair of the Inquiry, Nigel Clarke. “The key is that joining the new professional body is not mandatory. That professional body must therefore offer value to its members.  Some members [of extant bodies] value the postnominals alone, but some want support. And we do feel it is important that everybody feels represented.”

The report lays out a structure for operating local branches of the new body, following Strategic Health Authority borders, as this was held to be an area in which the RPSGB had not performed well.  Specialist areas, as well as geographical areas, are held to be a crucial issue.

The ‘tribal’ nature of the field can be accommodated in one body, according to the authors. Three governance sectors should be created for the body – community pharmacy; hospital, PCT and healthboards; and science, academia and industry – along with a committee of specialist interest groups to ensure development of practice within specialisms, and to encourage cross-fertilisation between fields.

The report was commissioned by the RPSGB, but was conducted independently of the body.  Carter praised the bravery of the RPSGB in commissioning such an inquiry, and said that, though the report was critical of the body, they were central to the recommendations laid out for a future professional body. “It is absolutely clear to us,” he said, “that we cannot meet the timetable that’s been set unless the RPSGB are a central part of the new body. Though issues of history are important, looking forward is rather more important that looking at what may have happened in the past.”

The Clarke Inquiry

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

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