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The EU has defined a "liberal profession"

From Mr J. Ferguson, FRPharmS

Ian Caldwell, in his article “What does it mean to be a member of a profession in 21st century Britain?” (PJ, 21 April, p461) mentions that we already see the impact of EU directives on various aspects of pharmacy practice. He also struggles with defining what a profession is.

It is perhaps of interest that those in the EU institutions have recently turned their collective minds to defining “liberal professions”, which are, according to the Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC) “those practised on the basis of relevant professional qualifications in a personal, responsible and professionally independent capacity by those providing intellectual and conceptual services in the interest of the client and the public”.

The directive has to be “transposed” into national legislation in the 27 member states before the end of this year. Perhaps this definition, adopted by the EU Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, could be borne in mind in the discussions on the membership structure of the “new” Royal Pharmaceutical Society. The words “professionally independent” are, I believe, particularly relevant for the EU institutions.

Mr Caldwell also refers to the success of the UK Inter Professional Group in its “quiet lobbying” role. As one who has been attending meetings of the group (of which the Society was a founder member) for more than 20 years, I fully concur with that comment. And the same, in my view, is true of CEPLIS, the umbrella body for the liberal professions at EU level, of which at present I have the privilege to be president. The voice of the professions has never been stronger in Europe.

For the health professions that was clearly demonstrated recently in the overwhelming vote in the European Parliament to reject a proposal from its Internal Market Committee to reintroduce health care services into the Directive on Services in the Internal Market. This confirmed the recognition by the parliament that health care services, excluded as defined from the scope of that directive, are far too important to citizens of EU member states to be left to market forces.

It is worth noting the definition — “healthcare and pharmaceutical services provided by health professionals to patients to assess, maintain or restore their state of health where those activities are reserved to a regulated health profession in the member state in which the services are provided”.

Perhaps it would be prudent to consider this definition alongside the definition of liberal profession.

John Ferguson
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10004159

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