The RPS Annual Review 2020

Our year in pharmacy.

Welcome from RPS President Sandra Gidley

A word from RPS Chief Executive Paul Bennett


When we look back on 2020 there’s no question it will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. And for everyone those 12 months are defined by the virus, and the chaos and fear spawned as it spread around the world.

But there’s another way to see 2020: as a year when we were challenged and stretched as most of us never had been before. It was a year when the public looked to pharmacy and the healthcare professions for help and realised we were there for them, as always.

When they needed someone to rely on, to help and reassure them, and we did just that. It was a difficult, heartbreaking year, but our members and the wider profession stood proud and did their jobs, supported the incredible work of the NHS in supporting the public.

They undoubtedly saved lives, while facing very real risks to themselves.

So, on behalf of everyone at RPS, I want to say thank you to everyone who stepped up during the pandemic in 2020 and simply got on with their job. I have never been prouder to be part of the profession.

Here at RPS, we faced the same unprecedented challenges as everyone, in co-ordinating with all our staff to work remotely, whilst at the same time supporting the fight against COVID-19. Our Science & Research team went into overdrive, gathering, collating and analysing every piece of evidence to ensure the very best advice was available. Our Support and Education Teams were there sharing up-to-the-minute guidance with everyone – not just members, but everyone - after we made all our COVID-19 resources freely available online.

At the start of the pandemic, we prioritised our development of essential medicines' information for critical care, and in just four weeks launched an advance version of Critical Illness, including six drug monographs for COVID-19 patients. Our RPS knowledge business, Pharmaceutical Press, launched six vital new print editions, including an updated Palliative Care Formulary and new British National Formulary and BNF for Children.

At the same time, all our popular face-to-face events were moved online with a speed and efficiency that, even with hindsight, seems incredible.

Things have changed at the RPS, as they have everywhere in the world; and while the pandemic is still far from over, I think we can look forward to 2021 and beyond with an optimism that has in these last 12 months, sometimes been in short supply.

Thank you for your continued support and helping us do the work we do on your behalf.

Paul Bennett CEO

2020 in numbers...

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COVID-19 got only the briefest of mentions in our Annual Review of 2019, but in 2020 it was the only story.

In March, with the country put into in lockdown, our offices were closed and staff sent home. Like organisations everywhere, our teams had to shift to new ways of working in a matter of days, adapting and adjusting to the changes to better assist in the efforts against COVID-19.

Sharing information


Faster than ever before, a whole new section of our website was created, with almost 40 new pages, detailing everything we knew about the virus. Our Science & Research team were searching, sorting and analysing thousands of publications, messages and websites, looking for every piece of useful information that would support, guide and protect every member of the profession.

Everything we published on COVID-19 was made available for free to everyone, not just our members, as we recognised this was the right thing to do.

Supporting you

We began campaigning for access to PPE in March 2020, creating posters to reassure and inform the public in community pharmacies, and letters giving pharmacists the same recognition as other health professionals, so they could shop during the NHS-protected periods.

We created online training resources for pharmacists in care homes and critical care settings when they were desperately needed during the early months. Ethical guides were created for hard-pressed healthcare professionals, many of whom had never imagined some of the decisions they were forced into.

And recognising the pressure you were under, we worked with experts to help you handle those pressures, as much as possible.

And we tried to help in other ways, too. We created a Pharmacy Heroes video, which showed the heroic efforts being made by pharmacists, that was noticed at the highest levels and was shared by the Royal Family on Twitter.

Changing the way we work

Dozens of face-to-face events were cancelled or moved online as webinars or Facebook Live events. We joined the rest of the country in the shift to Zoom and other apps, as we fought to keep our channels open, educating and sharing information with pharmacists from across the profession and the country.

The COVID-19 section of grew and grew, as more was learned about the virus, and advice and guidance for tackling it evolved. Eventually, the sheer weight of information meant it needed to be rebuilt from scratch, to ensure the profession could quickly find and act upon the advice and information we had collected.

The bigger picture

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We backed pharmacists to put patients first: empowering you to do the right thing for patients, without worrying about the detail of regulations. 

Every week we met with NHS, governments and organisations to discuss how you and your teams could be best supported, both in terms of daily routine (e.g. changes to pharmacy regulations) and as part of wider policy discussions (e.g. key workers).

We were there submitting evidence on your behalf at Parliamentary inquiries, and working with the All-Party Pharmacy Group to make your voice heard in Parliament.

A year of huge change and incredible efforts

Events and Webinars

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2020 was a particularly strange year for RPS Events, as everything changed practically overnight, when lockdown stopped face-to-face meetings.

Despite this, the team made a remarkable comeback and, over the course of the next 12 months delivered 250 events, mostly digital, for an incredible 18,000 attendees.

28 live training webinars took place, attracting over 12,000 pharmacists, on vital topics such as critical care, infection management, mental health conditions, thrombosis and anticoagulation, COVID-19 clinical trials, COVID-19 in children, remote consultations and contingency planning.

Events were at the heart of our new digital strategy, providing a diverse programme of training, education and supportive meetings, and devising new ways of bringing us together, even as lockdown kept us apart.

Workforce Wellbeing

Our Workforce Wellbeing survey launched in 2020, and we published our survey report on the pressures being faced by pharmacists during the pandemic.

Our Workforce Wellbeing section got a major - ongoing - update to support people through the pandemic, and we held events with Pharmacist Support and the Mental Wealth Academy - mainly as Facebook live sessions

We also managed to get access to national wellbeing support for pharmacists and their teams.

Science & Research

Our Science & Research team were absolutely vital during COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic an RPS COVID-19 programme was set up, with the Science and Research Team redeployed there. They worked tirelessly to collate over 7,000 pieces of intelligence - coding, analysing and reporting daily, to ensure everything we did was directly relevant to our members and the profession.

Aside from the pandemic, a new Industrial Pharmacy Advisory Group was set up, and our e-cigarettes policy launched in February 2020.


Social Media

Our biggest success in social media in 2020 was our COVID Heroes video. Created to raise the profile and spirits of pharmacy in 2020 it was immediately popular with pharmacists.

However, when it was shared by The Royal Family's Twitter account (which has 4.2 million followers) the video was viewed more than 40,000 times in 24 hours as a result!

Professional Development


By the end of 2020, our mentoring platform had 1,562 registered users, composed of 1,099 mentees (657 and 463 mentors, and we'd had almost a thousand requests for mentoring during the year.


2020 saw the launch of our new e-Portfolio with two new programmes - provisional registration, and consultant pharmacist credentialing., attracting 1,500 users.

Students and provisional registration

COVID-19 meant GPhC registration assessment was postponed, which meant confusion and anxiety for many. That's why we developed online guidance for Pre-Reg trainees and tutors, and provisionally registered pharmacists, including three live webinars, four WhatsApp groups (with over 1,000 members each!) and a dedicated support service.

To help prepare for their national Pre-Registration placement recruitment (also known as ORIEL) we hosted events for over 600 students.

Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS)

In October, we launched our NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (or CPCS) CPD Courses in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). 

By the end of December we'd delivered 63 two-part courses, attended by over 1,400 pharmacists. Not only that, 99% of attendees said they would recommend our CPCS courses to their colleagues!

In the Media

The tireless efforts of the RPS media team meant our total coverage across all channels was up 25% in 2020.

RPS appeared in the media 4,246 times - in 3,440 online articles, 255 print and 551 broadcast appearances, and our total reach increased by 29% compared to 2019.

Inclusion & Diversity


Our major Inclusion & Diversity campaign began in 2020.

We committed to making inclusion and diversity central to the profession, celebrating and encouraging diverse voices across pharmacy.

Central to this was our Inclusion and Diversity Report, a plan for, and by, pharmacy, with three priorities:

  1. Create a culture of belonging
  2. Champion inclusive and authentic leadership
  3. Challenge barriers to inclusion & diversity.

Momentum grew throughout the year, and we saw more and more volunteers supporting our campaign, and a diverse range of people engaging with the RPS.

Assessment & Credentialing

We have developed an individual credentialing process for advanced level pharmacists working in patient-focussed roles wishing to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills and behaviours to work at consultant-level.

Individuals must be credentialed as consultant-ready to be eligible to fill consultant pharmacist posts, and RPS is now administering the national credentialing assessment for all individuals and maintaining a record of credentialed individuals.

The Pharmaceutical Journal

The PJ was at the heart of support for pharmacy against COVID-19 in 2020, with over seven million users viewing almost eleven million pages on the website.

We made all our content related to COVID-19 free to view to help everyone in healthcare, not just our members, as well as giving access to our Pharmacy Knowledge platform to all UK schools of pharmacy.

Our new podcast, The PJ Pod, launched and quickly racked up over 8,000 listens.

We launched a new initiative to celebrate women in pharmacy - Women to Watch 2020 - and we were nominated in the specialist journalism category at the British Journalism Awards.


Our two popular podcast series were an important source of information throughout lockdown - RPS President Sandra Gidley chatted with guests from across the profession in her regular PrezCast.

And in our pharmaceutical science podcast PharmSci Today, RPS Chief Scientist Gino Martini was joined by innovators and senior figures from the pharmaceutical industry, providing the very latest updates on vaccine development and delivery systems, and the latest technologies in the fight against COVID-19.

Library, e-Library and Museum

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With all of our buildings closed during lockdown, the RPS e-Library became a vital resource to many members.

Whether you were a practicing pharmacist checking your facts, or a student member preparing for exams, our e-Library was always open. No wonder that use of the e-Library increased by almost 65% in 2020!

And with visitors unable to visit the RPS Museum, we had to find new ways to adapt and connect.

So, the Museum created regular social media posts on some of the Museum's treasures, a Remarkable Remedies vlog series, virtual tours of exhibits, and online themed exhibitions to remind everyone of pharmacy's long - and sometimes strange! - history.

Pharmaceutical Press, the RPS' Knowledge Business

At the start of the pandemic, Pharmaceutical Press prioritised essential medicines information to support complex decision-making and dynamic prescribing in critical care. In just four weeks an advance version of Critical Illness was launched, including six drug monographs specifically useful for COVID-19 patients. Free access was provided to the NHS and MedicinesComplete customers.

Additionally, NHS accounts were given unlimited concurrent use of all resources covered by their subscriptions.

Six new print editions were published including:

Over 1.6 million users of MedicinesComplete, across 178 countries and regions made over 7.8 million searches, resulting in over 30 million page views.

The essential BNF and BNF for Children app, providing access to the latest drug information quickly, offline and on-the-go was updated to include colour coded content aiding navigation between adult and child content.

RPS in Wales

We published our manifesto for pharmacy ahead of the Senedd election, and spoke regularly to the Welsh Government, members of the Senedd and NHS Wales about recognition of pharmacy teams, safety issues and medicines shortages.

We appeared 50 times in the Welsh media, including BBC Wales, S4C and the Western Mail, highlighting the innovative practice and dedication by pharmacy teams across the country.

We worked with over 60 NHS Wales bodies and other organisations to ensure pharmacy’s expertise is recognised across every area of health and social care, and we're on the delivery board of Pharmacy: Delivering A healthier Wales.

RPS in Scotland

Following consultation with our members, the profession and other pharmacy organisations, we published our manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. We're calling for political parties to commit to delivering the best results for the pharmacy profession and for the people of Scotland.

We also published a new policy on improving pharmaceutical care for people living with mental health conditions, recommending that the expertise, clinical knowledge and accessibility of pharmacists should be better used to support people with mental health conditions.

We ran a hugely successful social media campaign in December 2020 - #24daysofpharmacy showcasing many different pharmacy roles and demonstrating how valued pharmacy teams are. The campaign was viewed almost a quarter of a million times during December!