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Lord Peston’s influence in the development of pharmacy education

In his tribute to Maurice Peston (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;297:60), Mark Burdon was correct in concluding that his association with pharmacy started with his appointment as a member of the Nuffield Committee of Enquiry on Pharmacy. That committee was established not long after a health minister, speaking at a British Pharmaceutical Conference, said words to the effect that he could see a future for hospital pharmacy but had doubts about the future of community pharmacy.

Thus the inclusion of a distinguished economist in the membership of the committee was hardly surprisingly. Lord Peston fitted the bill, having advised more than one Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. The membership also included leading academic and practising pharmacists.

Later, during the period of implementation of the Nuffield Committee’s recommendations, Lord Peston was a member of the Society’s Council, having been appointed by the Privy Council, some would not say by coincidence, to fill one of the three places reserved for its nominees on that Council. These places were created by the Pharmacy Acts of 1953 and 1954, which combined the registers of Pharmaceutical Chemists and Chemists and Druggists, the latter becoming, for the first time, automatically members of the Society (MPS). The initial role of the Privy Council nominees, who became honorary members of the Society during their term of office, was to ensure the Chemists and Druggists were treated fairly within the new structure.

It can be said, without any doubt, that Lord Peston took a keen interest in the progress being made by the Society in implementing those of the Nuffield recommendations that were within its powers to implement. He did his best to ensure there was no lack of urgency.

One important recommendation was that all pharmacy graduates should not automatically become registered pharmacists. The implementation of that recommendation of the Society led to the period of preregistration training becoming structured and competency based. It also led to the introduction of the registration examination. These were both significant developments.

A further important recommendation was that the pharmacy degree course should include an introduction to the social and behavioural sciences. This was done, although it was not easily implemented because any introduction of new topics into a fixed-term course meant that other subject centres, with great reluctance, had to cede time.

Thus, Lord Peston had a significant influence in the development of pharmacy education.

He became immersed in the work of the Council in the development of pharmacy practice. I recall how irritated he was when I had to inform him that, under the Society’s Charter and Bylaws, as an honorary member he would not be able to participate in a special general meeting of members that was to be convened at the National Theatre.

As Burdon said, Lord Peston became a solid friend of pharmacy, keeping a watchful eye on any legislative developments that had implications for the profession.

On a lighter note, he was, for many years, a member of the Pools Panel — the group that decided the “results” of matches that had been postponed because of adverse weather conditions. I am sure he would never allow his support for Arsenal FC, which I believed is shared by his son Robert — now prominent on ITV — to influence his judgement, when undertaking this task.

John Ferguson

Secretary and Registrar 1985–1998

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201570

Readers' comments (1)

  • There was a point during one of the often charged debates of the Nuffield Committee of Inquiry when Maurice Peston so critically intervened. It followed a proposition from one of the medical members that we debate the proposition that a degree course for community pharmacy might no longer be necessary. After listening to the arguments and to the ripostes of the pharmacist minority, Maurice Peston said briefly in emphatic tones "I will not be party to the deskilling of a profession." Sir Kenneth Clucas, the Chairman, concurred and freed us to concentrate on the more positive aspects of the agendas of the 29 meetings held from October 1983-January 1986.

    Sandy Florence
    Member of the Committee

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