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The Pharmaceutical Journal has become out of touch

It is likely that, if this letter is ever published, I will not get to read it. The reason? Well, I am slightly embarrassed to say that, as soon as my Pharmaceutical Journal arrives, I unwrap it from its plastic envelope, have a quick flick through, then head straight to the recycling bin and, with a tinge of guilt, I unceremoniously dump it there.

It is a habit I have developed over the past few years and I cannot see any way out. This is not something I admit to lightly, but I have thought about this for too long to stay silent any longer.

You see, The Pharmaceutical Journal does not deliver what I am looking for and, sadly, it has not done for a few years. The content is mainly irrelevant to regular pharmacists like myself or, if an article is of interest, I have already read it on the website some time before. It seems to have focused on what can only be described as niche content that fails to deliver much interest because it is of no use to my practice. This is probably the same for the majority of RPS members. The magazine content is just completely out of touch with what is happening on the ground.

I do have to declare an interest. In my spare time, I run a successful website for pharmacists with a colleague, As two practising pharmacists with decades of experience, we have a good understanding of what interests pharmacists, and endeavour to deliver content that is relevant and engaging, we listen to feedback and interact daily with our readers electronically and frequently in person at pharmacy events.

As an observer, it looks strategically like The Pharmaceutical Journal has focused on an international audience at the expense of its grassroots members. But is this strategy working? Does The Pharmaceutical Journal make the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) money, or is it an expensive exercise in vanity?

I am a supporter of the RPS — I’ve got the Faculty pin and everything to show that — but it is time The Pharmaceutical Journal reverted to deliver content that is more relevant.

The RPS’s journal has to appeal to the membership, not the international elite. Take a look at the editorial board of Clinical Pharmacist for example (I could not find a list for The Pharmaceutical Journal) — it is a panel of experts from around the world, but is that representative of the membership? Are they best-placed to advise on what pharmacists working in practice might find interesting?

A good journal should be about providing readers with information that enables them to make good decisions in practice, and strong professional leadership is required at the helm to ensure this happens.

My letter is not about bashing The Pharmaceutical Journal for the sake of it, but a plea to change direction and deliver what members need. I want a successful journal that is widely read by members (I am not interested in how it is received internationally) and supported with thriving advertising revenue. Perhaps it is time to consider ditching the print journals and all the costs involved in that, and focus on digital content and have something we can be proud of again.

The Pharmaceutical Journal needs more pharmacist input. I know some of the great pharmacists working there, so let us give them more input and let us have a pharmacist as editor again, providing the much-needed focused leadership that The Pharmaceutical Journal editorial team and the RPS members deserve.

Ross Ferguson


Tony Scully, acting publisher, The Pharmaceutical Journal, responds:

Thank you for your correspondence and comments. All the feedback we receive is valuable to us and I am sorry that you feel the journal no longer provides you with relevant content.

However, our most recent member survey, conducted in mid-2016, showed that around 75% of Royal Pharmaceutical Society members were either satisfied or very satisfied with the print edition of The Pharmaceutical Journal; 2.3% of members were very dissatisfied.

Although the subjects we cover and the types of content we produce are in line with the preference of most members, these results do not dictate our editorial strategy. Rather, surveys are integral to our strategy; we are always working to improve for all members.

Pharmacy is a diverse and varied profession — a challenge as well as an exciting opportunity — and we try incredibly hard to create interesting and insightful content for all practising pharmacists.

I am confident that we have a talented multidisciplinary team in house, a team capable of producing high-quality content that reflects the lives of members through these challenging times.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202302

Readers' comments (7)

  • Darren Powell

    I also have to admit that my paper copies are quickly extracted from the wrapper, and are then piled up in a cupboard, until their bulk merits recycling.

    Like Ross I flick through the content, but more often than not, the website, or PJ App has given me the "odd" article of interest to read.

    I really should get around to stopping the paper copy and saving some costs.

    It would be interesting to see what sort of profile can be gleaned from the website page hits. To show what articles generate the most interested from a UK and even an international basis.

    But I too, do wonder, if the PJ material hits the spot for the majority of the membership in terms of relevance to practice.

    Like Ross said, this isn't PJ bashing, the quality of the publication is very high, but about the relevance of content.

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  • Out of curiosity what percentage of RPS members took the time to respond to the survey?

    The more unengaged readership are certain the least likely to respond to a survey and may significantly affect your results.

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  • Hi Brian,

    The survey invite went out to members in July 2016 and 524 members responded in the week the survey was open. We will publish the results alongside a content analysis as soon as we can.

    Kind regards,

    Tony Scully

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  • Graham Phillips

    Forgive me, Tony .. the invite went to members over 6 months ago and "you'll publish the results as soon as you can"? Don't bust a gut!

    Seriously, like Ross, I am extremely committed to the future of the RPS -de facto our very own "Royal College" but let's be the honest, the PJ simply doesn't hack it (not even close).

    I concur with Ross' sentiments entirely.

    Must try harder



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  • I haven't read it in years either. So wouldn't even know if it is relevant or not any longer. I sometimes see something that catches my eye in an email update like this post but otherwise don't feel that I'm missing out.
    Intrigued to know out of how many members the 524 respondents were. I believe a percentage was asked.
    I don't recall seeing a survey even.
    Most of my reading comes from the archives of diseases in childhood (a BMJ publication) and others. I think pharmacy is a bit too diverse to keep us all happy with one publication but if the medics can achieve series of publications for all specialist areas, surely we can do a better job of it.

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  • Readers may wish to link to this article on a related theme -

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  • When an article that explains and demonstrates the value of clinical pharmacists is published in the PJ, if would be nice if information is added to say if this article will also be published in other journals and how the RPS will help with that. It is interesting to read it, and we all know how we can help, it is the other professions and management teams who need to realise so these findings need publishing in their journals.
    In terms of reading the PJ, the problem is that usually pharmacists don't have time to read it, medical and nursing professions get more time for continuous education etc.
    For effective learning, time for reflection is necessary and without learning and continuous development the workforce won't progress, and this affects patients.
    May be one day it will be recognised that some time out of the routine tasks needs to be properly protected for pharmacists.

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