RPS criticised for walking away from international pharmacists' body

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RPS criticised for walking away from international pharmacists' body

Former presidents of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have been quick to query another of the organisation’s strategic decisions, after it emerged last night that the RPS left the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) at the end of last year. The RPS was a founding member of FIP in 1912.

Immediate past president Sandra Gidley broke the news on Twitter late last night, in a tweet following the fallout from the news that the RPS was no longer pursuing royal college status as an immediate priority. 

Ms Gidley, who stood down as president in the middle of last year after not seeking re-election to the English Pharmacy Board, wrote: “The new strategic plan does not mention Royal College. Mind you the new strategic plan also mentions international influence and we no longer belong to @FIP so much for international influence.”

Reaction was swift, with both former RPSGB president Steve Churton and recently retired chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge weighing in. 

Others have since commented, calling the decision “ridiculous” (Mike Holden), “bizarre” (Jonathan Underhill), a “stupid idea” (Tohidul Islam) and “an error” (Mohammed Hussain).

Some pointed to last November’s co-signed letter on climate change as evidence of the previous close working relationship between the two organisations. 

Further tweets from Ms Gidley reveal that the decision to leave was taken by the Assembly and because of the financial implications would have been discussed in confidential business. “That said, as it was such an important decision, I would have expected an announcement”.

FIP confirmed the RPS departure in a statement this morning, saying: “It is regretful that RPS has decided not to be a member of FIP in 2022, especially at a time when global solidarity on issues that affect us all, such as pharmacy workforce capacity, antimicrobial resistance, access to medicines and pharmaceutical care, and sustainability, is so important.”

The organisation, which has more than 140 pharmacy member organisations around the world, suggested the RPS can return at any time: “Should the circumstances of RPS change in future, we would be very happy to welcome the organisation back to our global network… to advance our pharmacy profession for the benefit of our populations, in collaboration.”

In a statement also issued this morning, the RPS said: “We've decided not to renew our organisational membership of FIP in 2022. We have carefully considered how best to serve our members and meet our Charter obligations and believe, at the current time, this decision will help us focus on delivery of our mission and vision.

“We remain an outwardly focused and internationally aware organisation. We will continue to be an active participant in global pharmacy policy. We will be at the forefront of world-wide efforts to reduce antimicrobial resistance, end environmental harm and promote inclusiveness and diversity across the profession.”

It appears the RPS has also left the UK delegation of PGEU, the group which represents pharmacists and pharmacy owner organisations in relation to decisions taken by the European Union.

While the UK’s departure of from the EU had resulted in a downgrading of the UK delegation’s status from member to observer, the RPS had previously formed the delegation with the National Pharmacy Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland. 

According to the PGEU’s website, the delegation is now supported by the NPA alone.

This latest row follows news that the RPS was to make two senior directors redundant, including the Director for Education and Professional Development, which called into question the Society’s previously stated ambition to achieve Royal College status like many other professional leadership bodies for medicine and nursing.

That decision, described by the RPS as an “operational matter”, drew similar opprobrium online from senior pharmacy figures. 

The “downgrading” of the Society’s focus on education had already drawn the ire of both Keith Ridge and Steve Churton and caused some members to publicly question their continued membership on social media. 

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