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Are membership fees are too high?

As a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Faculty I have recently renewed my membership at a total cost of £192 plus £75, respectively. The fee is too high and is not comparable to other professions.

Although the Royal College of Nursing fee, at £196.35, may look comparable to the RPS fee, it is not. The RPS is not a trade union and does not provide indemnity insurance. My fees at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (indemnity + union) is £188 which, with the RPS fees, adds up to £380 (plus Faculty fee). The higher British Medical Association fee (£443) may be able to be justified by the higher median salary of doctors and because it is also a trade union. The RPS fees cannot be so justified.

Since pharmacists are living with reduced salaries as a result of the increase in schools of pharmacy and the resultant tsunami of graduates (and this will only get worse), the RPS should review its fees.

One area it can definitely reduce costs is by scrapping the weekly hard copies of The Pharmaceutical Journal. This will also be environmentally friendly. Members who opt out of receiving the print journal should pay a reduced fee.

Samir Vohra,

Preston, Lancashire

Patrick Stubbs, director of marketing and membership at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, responds: We have maintained membership fees at the same level for the past four years. We have also developed the number and quality of member resources and services included in that fee. With many other bodies additional services are paid for on top of the membership fee.

To help members manage their costs they can pay their fees monthly by direct debit or, to receive a discounted fee of £182, they can set up an annual direct debit. Fees are also tax deductible.

Membership provides access to professional support, guidance, best practice standards, thought leadership and experts from all sectors and areas of practice. Members receive subscriptions to The Pharmaceutical Journal and Clinical Pharmacist, an annual copy of ‘Medicines ethic and practice’, access to a confidential enquiry service, local practice forums, training and national events, support alerts, information bulletins and discounts on Pharmaceutical Press titles.

The RPS campaigns on members’ behalf, promoting best practice in pharmacy and works with governments in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure that pharmacy continues to play its vital role in the NHS and the provision of healthcare in the UK.

When compared with royal colleges (without union functions), which is the role we now undertake, it perhaps becomes clearer that the fees represent good value. For example, on top of the British Medical Association fees most doctors will also be paying a royal college fee, as well as registration fees with the General Medical Council.

The fee for ongoing Faculty membership will provide members with access to the Faculty support service in 2015, to support and guide their ongoing professional development based on their Faculty professional development plan with the guidance of RPS mentors. It will also provide opportunities for you to develop your portfolio further by working with the Faculty and collaborative working opportunities via our affiliated groups, particularly through research and publication opportunities to share best practice and improve patient care. Faculty membership is also tax deductible.

All things considered, I believe the fees represent good value. However, we are not complacent and strive to be more efficient and deliver more each year.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068070

Readers' comments (3)

  • I thought it might be useful to give more detail on how members can reclaim tax on their membership fees.

    The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is an HMRC approved (List 3) professional body. If you are a UK taxpayer, the fee you pay for your membership, and your Faculty membership, may be tax-deductible (eligible for tax relief).

    Higher rate tax-payers may be entitled to tax relief of £76, while lower rate tax-payers may be able to save £38 on their Society membership fees.

    If you wish to claim tax relief against your professional fees, contact your local HMRC office, noting to them that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is an approved (List 3) professional body.

    To help you, we've created a standard letter which you can use when writing to your local HMRC office.

    Please note: Tax relief can only be claimed if the member is working and their membership is relevant to the job they are working in.

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  • Thanks Patrick for your reply. My colleagues and I would like to respond as follows:

    There is no need for hardcopies of the PJ, Clinical Pharmacist or MEP. This will save on costs and is very environmentally friendly with no plastic packaging and no paper reducing the need to recycle. You have not addressed this point.

    There is also the issue of the canteen which we believe is subsidized and this subsidy is funded through our annual fee. This subsidy needs to be scrapped.

    The average pharmacist never needs to purchase books from the PP so the 25% discount is seldom used.

    Comparable training and education is available elsewhere for free from organisations such as CPPE. Their workshops are also free and are highly useful and local. Professional clinical articles are available online for free from various sources.

    LPFs are often dominated by LPCs which are dominated by contractors whose main focus is on their business interests and not the future of pharmacists per se.

    The RPS does not solely represent pharmacists and does not solely campaign on their behalf. The RPS has diluted its membership (pharmaceutical scientists) and represents the profession of pharmacy as a whole therefore there are and always will be competing and perhaps conflicting aims. The RPS always talks of ‘pharmacy’ not ‘pharmacists’.

    The Royal Colleges represent specific professionals e.g. GPs, Physicians, Psychiatrists etc. Does the RPS intend to become a Royal College of Pharmacists or Pharmacy?

    Explaining how to claim tax relief so that the annual fee will work out cheaper does not address the point of why the fee is high in the first place.

    Kind regards.

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  • Dear Samir,
    First can I offer you an open invitation for you to come and visit us at the RPS to see how we support the membership.Although I am happy to answer the specific comments you have made I’d really like you to meet the team here at RPS and see the work we are doing first hand.

    On the points you make, I will give my views on each in turn. Just to add I do this in the hope we can give some context to the comments you make, we are very happy to receive feedback and I am grateful for the time you have taken to explain your views.

    So on the Pharmaceutical Journal (PJ), Clinical Pharmacist (CP) and MEP in print. Most of our members still prefer to have paper copies of these however a growing number are asking if they can opt out of paper copies of the PJ and CP. We welcome this and if members want to do this they can call the membership team who will update their records. While print and postage are expensive the largest cost of producing these titles and delivering is the creation of quality content. To enable us to expand the content and continue to improve the quality we are reinvesting any saving from members opting out of print into this process.

    We value the people who work here at RPS and we want to make sure we attract and keep talented people in a very competitive market. How much we pay our people and any other benefits they receive is overseen and decided by elected pharmacist members.

    Although I understand that not all members will take advantage of our local and national events and publications, many do and we have great feedback from those that attend. The PHP discount is very popular with members, last year over 9,600 members made use of it.

    We work collaboratively with CPPE and other organisations to make sure we complement rather than replicate the local events we offer.

    I personally don’t recognise the description of LPFs you set out, the ones I have been invited to attend are diverse and vibrant, due to the volunteers who have lead these local organisations. If you have time, my advice would be to get involved, many members tell us although hard work it is rewarding to be leading the profession locally.

    Lastly we believe that the RPS is an organisation for the pharmacy profession, and when we talk about pharmacy we are using a collective noun for the profession. Pharmaceutical Scientists were invited to join the RPS after the majority of our members said they would like this to happen. We know those that have joined, although few in number, appreciate the diversity of the membership as well as the work we do to advance pharmaceutical science. What is important for all our members is that we act with the interests of patients and the public at the heart of all that we do to promote the profession.

    I hope these comments are helpful I would be delighted to speak to you further on the phone on via email if easier, and I hope you will be able to visit us soon.

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