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Faculty process is too complex

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has got revalidation and its Faculty raison d’etre wrong. Firstly, revalidation will not demand the level of scrutiny by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) that the RPS Faculty sets. There are three rather tortuous levels to be achieved by the Faculty, and what the GPhC will require will probably not exceed the current level one because it will need a bog standard one-size-fits-all approach to meet a basic rationale for practice of its registrants.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council does not have a level of practice required above its standard registrant level as of 2016, and does not intend to push for advanced nurse practitioner competencies as a prerequisite for maintaining registration either. This is on account of expense and it is unnecessary for continued nurse registration.

Moreover, the Faculty has a complex web of bells and whistles. The Royal College of Nursing accredits a number of postgraduate diploma and MSc courses with automatic status given to its graduates as advanced nurse practitioners. A simple and easy procedure.

How on earth any applicant to the Faculty passes through its subjective process is nothing short of mind boggling; too elitist for most pharmacists and serves no function for rank-and-file practitioners trying to negotiate the whole awful process.

Gerry Diamond


Catherine Duggan, director of professional development and support, and Hannah Wilton, head of faculty at the RPS, respond: The RPS is seeking to ensure that Faculty membership exceeds the requirements for continuing fitness to practise (CFtP) that the GPhC is developing. We know that there will be a continuing professional development (CPD) element, a peer assessment of sorts and some form of evidence of progression. The Faculty provides all of these in the assessment process and the subsequent development. It is right that Faculty membership remains aspirational and seeks to support developments and advancement of individuals, beyond the minimum, as practice and services develop and advance. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has set the requirements for CFtP at the registration level. What we want to do is support our members and the profession to be able, where appropriate, to deliver excellent care and new services, and to develop new skills where needed and ensure this system counts across many elements.

This is what members have been asking for. Faculty membership can also help to highlight development opportunities for new services and roles. We are working closely with employers to ensure that the Faculty membership can also count towards the performance development record for an individual, so that one system counts for everything: recognition by peers, demonstration of CFtP and plan for the year ahead in a pharmacist’s job.

The three stages of Faculty membership do not require anything different from applicants for each stage. One process applies to all. This is the submission of a portfolio with examples of evidence of impact on patient care, public health and the area of practice. Anyone who is registered for more than two years can submit to attain Faculty members. The first stage reflects established practice, the second reflects the demonstration of excellence and the third reflects exceptional practice. This is the job of the assessors, not the applicant.

The Faculty is a straightforward process with the advanced pharmacy framework (APF) at its heart. The APF is an evidence-based developmental framework, designed to collate evidence for up to 40 years’ practice. Once it has been completed the first time, the CPD element will be relatively easy: 6 to 12 entries over a year will fulfil the GPhC annual requirements.

We have 282 Faculty members to date who have successfully completed the quality-assured peer assessment of their advanced practice. Feedback from colleagues who have undertaken, and are undertaking, the Faculty journey has been positive. Nobody has reported that it is “elitist” and many who have gone through this are from “rank-and-file” jobs from all sectors, scopes and stages of practice represented across Britain, with interest from Northern Ireland and further afield. These include community pharmacy locums, hospital chief pharmacists, drug development scientists and pharmacists working with GP practices. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069211

Readers' comments (6)

  • Gerry, I'm honestly not sure where to start in responding to this. Firstly, thank you for sharing your thoughts, that should always be encouraged & welcomed. Secondly, maybe I completed a totally different Faculty process to the one you have experienced, but I don't recognise much if anything of what you describe!

    I am, as many will be aware, an elected member of an RPS Board, but my day job is 'community pharmacist', I do all the regular things community pharmacists do and I try to do a fair bit more when time allows around commitments to family & business etc. I didn't find the Faculty process awful, complex, tortuous or elitist and I don't recall seeing any bells or a whistle for that matter. I've also enjoyed advising & helping quite a few other pharmacists from all sorts of different backgrounds on getting involved in the process.

    Only time will tell the exact approach the GPhC decide to take with continuing fitness to practice, all I can really say at this point is that my Faculty portfolio, testimonials & assessment are in my opinion (and there are many more cleverer folk than me out there so judge that how you will!) currently the best reflection of my commitment to professional development & demonstration of my level of expertise that I have to offer.

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  • As a Faculty Member, I also felt I needed to comment. The RPS is not the regulator and so was a bit puzzled about your comparison with regulators in other professions. The RPS is more aligned with Royal Colleges, so a comparison with processes within the RCP or RCGP would have been more appropriate. The Faculty recognises and supports advanced practice and as I've worked hard over the past 15 years to keep up to date and provide the best possible service for my patients, reflects more than our regulator requires; that's kind of the point! I don't want to be "just good enough" I want to be recognised that my career has taken me above and beyond.
    As for the process, is it "easy"? No, but then again, that's also the point! It is however straightforward. I would not expect a process that demonstrates that I'm an advanced practitioner to be easy, I would expect it to require thought, reflection and a thorough review of my practice by my peers. I would also expect the RPS to support me through this process and I was not disappointed. The Faculty Team were fantastic and they also set me up with a mentor who had already been through the process - I am now in turn supporting others through the heading for their submission in September.
    Finally the professional development plan I received was extremely useful in making me think about my practice and how I can continue to progress over the next few years. High quality peer review for advanced practice does not exist anywhere else in our profession and I would encourage people to engage with the process for this reason alone.
    I care a lot about my patients and believe I have a duty to prove my expertise. I am extremely proud to be a Member of the RPS Faculty. I really urge anyone interested in developing themselves have a go at the process - see for yourselves.

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  • The process of applying for Faculty membership is really only the process of recording your CPD activities or updating your CV. The difference is that you then have to help the folks who assess your Faculty application by telling them what sort of skills you had to apply to achieve the things you say you've achieved ("mapping"). Did you conceive, plan, and execute a piece of research / teaching / audit or did you just just follow someone else's instructions?

    We all have to start at the bottom and follow other people's instructions. There is no shame in that. But with that, you can start to climb the Faculty ladder. As you gain experience and seniority, your recorded achievements can take you to the second step up the ladder. And when you find yourself in a position where you are "calling the tune" and "making a difference", and people around you are following your instructions, you can climb to the top of the Faculty ladder. But the nice folks who are waiting to assess your Faculty application need you to tell them what you've been doing.

    And when the GPhC starts checking for the continuing fitness to practice (CFtP) of pharmacists, it is likely that an individual who has engaged with the process of applying for Faculty membership will be seen as an individual who is committed to continuing professional development. Each assessment undertaken by Faculty assessors will [probably] be seen as one more assessment that the GPhC will not need to carry out / duplicate using its resources.

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  • Gerry, thank you for your comments although as a recently accredited faculty member I must say that I do have a different view of the process. As a pharmacist who is less than 10 years qualified I recently took part in the first wave of faculty practice assessments. The faculty team were very supportive and I found the whole process so positive. It really is about recognising the quality of work from pharmacists within any sector and reflecting on the breadth and depth of your experience. It is not a tortuous workload, there are 3 components, a portfolio mapped to the APF, peer feedback and an expert practice assessment. Rather than meeting a minimum requirement set by the regulator it is a developmental tool and recognition of your level of practice.

    It is so important to reflect on your work in this objective way and to get feedback from your peers. My PDP was very detailed and well thought out showing the assessors had taken their time to read my portfolio in detail. I now have a plan for the next five years of my practice and how I can continue to develop. I am also supporting others in this process.

    If we want to promote pharmacy and pharmacists as a key part of delivering healthcare in the future we must strive to develop ourselves and the profession. Just accepting the basic standard as OK is not enough. I strongly encourage all pharmacists to at least take a look for themselves.

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  • I am extremely proud to be an accredited member of the Faculty. I found the process to be many things - insightful, rewarding, motivational - certainly, but "elitist" and "torturous" are not words I would associate with either the process or the Faculty. The Faculty provides support and direction (in many forms) whilst undertaking the process but the journey doesn't end once you hit 'submit' - I now have access to opportunities (e.g. mentorship), networks and tools to support the next stage of my career. As a result of my experience I am active in encouraging others to start their own Faculty journey and reap the benefits of doing so. In my view, when the CPhC do launch their continuing fitness to practice standards Faculty members shall be ahead of the game.

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  • I'm not currently a member of the Faculty but am working towards submission this September (bias acknowledged).

    I disagree with Gerry's first point (if indeed this is the point you're making and I apologise if I've misunderstood) that the Faculty's reason for being is to meet the requirement of revalidation. I was under the impression it was about aspiring to excellence in practice and that meeting the requirements for revalidation was a side benefit?

    I'm also not sure that the charge that the faculty is 'elitist' is something which needs to be defended against. As well as being a pharmacist, I'm sometimes also patient. When I'm a patien I'm terribly elitist. By which I mean that I'd much rather be cared for and treated by healthcare professionals who are experts in their field, or aspiring to be experts, rather than one who is doing just enough to stay on the register.

    So, in summary, all that is needed is for someone to show some leadership and put together a framework and an assessment process for pharmacists that want to aspire to and be recognised for excellence in their practice.....wait a minute.

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