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Stay with the new RPS — it’s the mature thing to do

By Hemant Patel

A former president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society explains why professional self-interest, altruism, gratitude and forgiveness are reasons why pharmacists should continue to be members of the RPS

Hemant Patel Secretary, North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committees

 

The time is rapidly approaching when pharmacists have to decide whether or not to continue membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. As a member of the RPS and a past-president, I urge all my fellow pharmacists to renew their membership.

Four reasons to join

To my mind there are four reasons to join the reinvigorated and reforming society:

  • professional self-interest
  • altruism
  • gratitude
  • forgiveness

Professional self-interest

The new environment in healthcare, particulary in England, is likely to be hostile to most, if not all, pharmacists. We will need a source of inspiration and support to cope with the effects of a reorganised NHS. Our identity and self-esteem, too, depend on being a member of a vibrant and involving association. Failure to make timely representations on behalf of pharmacy will cost us heavily, although the cost of failure is not quantifiable.

Representations made from a royal society on behalf of a profession, but in public interest, carry more weight than those from trade unions, commercial organisations or individuals. While as individuals we concentrate on “here and now” issues of professional practice, we need someone to concentrate on the development and pursuance of long-term professional and strategic objectives in a fiercely competitive GP- and nurse-dominated NHS.

How will we develop the workforce, build relationships and partnerships with other national healthcare bodies, maintain and develop healthy respect for pharmacy, and support innovation without a strong RPS? And, if you think that currently pharmacy is low in the NHS pecking order, I would not like to imagine where we would be without the RPS.

Altruism

By walking away and weakening the profession we weaken our collective status, power and chances of prospering. Compared with other associations of pharmacists in the western world, the RPS has a record as good as any, if not better.

While there is room for improvement, there is also a strong platform for progress in a confusing environment and at a time when the Government is redefining the health service and the concepts of autonomous professions, integrated working and democratic public involvement.

Many pharmacists have a selfless concern for the welfare of others. They deserve our support.

Gratitude

I believe each generation of pharmacists should be grateful to the previous generation. It is this inheritance, perfect or not, that gives us the benefit of status, sense of belonging to a valued and respected profession, and an above average income.

And, at the same time, we must accept responsibility as worthy custodians of the profession, to prepare to bequeath it to the next generation in a better form than we found it. That way we ensure the profession’s progress and benefit future generations.

Many pharmacists with an immigrant background have a lot to be grateful for, too. As sons and daughters of businessmen running corner shops, teachers, workers driving buses and trains and others doing low paid, low status jobs, we are all today enjoying the fruits of becoming professionals with the help of the Society, which developed standards of practice and education to a degree level.

It was Maplethorpe and the Society that helped turn the requirement for becoming a pharmacist from a diploma to a degree. You only have to compare salaries and the status of pharmacists in relation to doctors in, say, India, Poland, Nigeria, Spain or Jamaica with those of pharmacists in the UK to see the full contrast in the picture.

Like all professional bodies, the Society has not been perfect. But, it has made a significant contribution to your and my status, well-being and position in society, from which we derive pleasure, pride and a good income.

Forgiveness

Damaging a new RPS that is solely geared to helping you and me will not overturn any decision or act of the old Society. So why damage your own and fellow pharmacists’ chances of progress? The new RPS should not bear the punishment for any perceived shortcomings of the old Society.

Registration only with the GPhC indicates to the world a minimalist approach to life rather than a mature view with appreciation of professionalism and civic duty.

 

The new situation

As a profession we need a new and modern identity to reposition ourselves in the new and challenging health system. We need strong leadership for the profession and democratic and modern professionalism. The core of democratic professionalism is an emphasis on collaborative, co-operative action between pharmacists, the Government and the public.

The RPS is the only body capable of developing a unified and sustainable strategy for mutual support, professional development, skill development and work organisation.

To my mind, our new professional identity requires us, first, to shed the shackles of the past and, secondly, to aim to overcome the domination of some individuals or groups over others. In exchange for our active and long-term support, the RPS must assure the profession that no members will, in future, be abandoned.

First and foremost, our new professionalism should be rooted in the principles of equity and social justice. These are not only important for the pharmacy profession but also for a broader constituency of the public and the patients.

All pharmacists must participate and help create an RPS characterised by the following:

  • Concern for the welfare of oneself, other pharmacists and the common good
  • Concern for the dignity and rights of pharmacists and minorities within the profession
  • An understanding that democracy is not so much an ideal to be pursued as an idealised set of values that we must live by and that must guide our lives as pharmacists
  • An open flow of ideas, regardless of their popularity, that enables pharmacists to be as fully informed as possible
  • Faith in the individual and collective capacity of pharmacists to create possibilities for resolving professional and personal problems
  • The use of critical reflection and analysis to evaluate ideas, problems and policies
  • The organisation of the RPS to promote a professional way of life


The development of such an identity will be a challenge for many but, once its elements are learnt and communicated to others, it will make a significant contribution to pharmacists’ work and how we experience that work in our eyes and those of others.

Now, please join the RPS!

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11050907

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