The RPS Today

Changing Roles in the 20th Century

LDRPS: 2007.48.304 Typed Leaflet explaining the changes The National Insurance Act will bring to healthcare including benefits, exemptions and fines

The 20th century saw a great many changes in pharmacy, and the Society always sought to represent the profession through these changes. Under the National Insurance Act of 1911, the prescribing and dispensing of medicines were formally separated except in rural areas. In 1948 the creation of the National Health Service saw pharmacists take on an even greater role in dispensing prescriptions.

 The century also saw a boom for the pharmaceutical industry: the discovery and development of sulphonamides and early antibacterials helped grow the industry, as well as the development of technologies for mass production.

Before 1911 many hospital pharmacists manufactured medicines on site, as a cost-effective way of producing the medicines needed on the wards. With the therapeutic revolution of the 1950s and 60s, pharmacists had a greater presence on ward and ensuring medicine stocks were accurate. As the role of the pharmacist expanded, so too did the role of technicians to cover pharmacists’ time.

The 1986 Nuffield report and a 1992 report by the Department of Health helped expand the role of community pharmacists. Both recommended that pharmacists take on roles in public health promotions as well as consultations and advice. 

Pharmacist Support

Birdsgrove House circa 1939-1945

With the founding of the society a Benevolent Fund was created to support members that had fallen on hard times. There was no welfare state at this time, and the fund supported those who lost their income through illness or the death of a loved one.

The society’s benevolent fund was made available to all members, as well as their wives and children. Sometimes there were specific appeals such as the 1918 the War Auxiliary Benevolent Fund, created for pharmacists who needed support as a result of the First World War. 

Birdsgrove House in Derbyshire was gifted to the Benevolent Fund in 1946. The house was used as a convalescent home for pharmacists recuperating from illness and services included treatment for addiction. Residents could take part in different activities like music or bowls and could go for walks in the nearby Peak District. Birdsgrove House closed sixty years after opening, after a decline in pharmacists needing to use the home. 

In 2006 the Benevolent Fund became the independent charity Pharmacist Support. Today it continues to support pharmacists through wellbeing services, student bursaries and specialist advice. 

Pharmaceutical Press: A Knowledge Business 

LDRPS: SZ547 This portrait shows William Martindale (1840-1902) the original author of the Extra Pharmacopoeia

Our publishing roots go back to 1841 when founder Jacob Bell first edited The Pharmaceutical Journal, considered one of the few ‘class’ periodicals of its time.

 Other well known publications include The Extra Pharmacopoeia originally written by William Martindale, a member of the Society’s Council, and later continued by his son. In 1933 the Pharmaceutical Society purchased the rights to produce and sell the resource, now called Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference.

In 1949 the Pharmaceutical Society and the British Medical Association took the war formulary and continued to publish it for general use as the British National Formulary, the first choice for concise medicines information, recognised worldwide today.

Stockley’s Drug Interactions, edited by Dr Ivan Stockley launched in 1981 to help healthcare professionals quickly and reliably decide the best course of action when managing the use of drug combinations, and has become another essential guide for health professionals.

Today, our trusted portfolio of respected resources covers therapeutics and the design and manufacture of medicines and has grown to include many other respected publications consulted daily around the world through our online platform Medicines Complete. We’re proud that Pharmaceutical Press continues to provide essential information to support healthcare professionals to confidently make informed decisions on the safe and effective use of medicines.

The RPS Today 

Her Majesty the Queen

Today the RPS supports pharmacists in the different aspects of their practice.

 Through the 20th century the Pharmaceutical Society promoted the use of a recognisable symbol to help patients identify pharmacies. The word ‘Chemist’ was replaced by the less ambiguous word ‘Pharmacy’ and in 1984 a simplified version of the green cross replaced the glass carboys previously seen in pharmacy windows.

In 1988 the Queen granted the title ‘Royal’ to the Pharmaceutical Society. Following the passage of the Social Care Act 2008 and the Pharmacy Order 2010, regulation of the profession passed to the newly created General Pharmaceutical Council.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society became the professional leadership body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales that we know today, with a mission to put pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare and a vision is to become the world leader in the safe and effective use of medicines. RPS continues to champion the profession and is internationally renowned as publishers of medicines information.