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RPS Assembly decisions on FIP membership and Royal College status

Dear Members and Fellows,

I want to speak to all of you about decisions taken by the RPS Assembly.

These decisions relate to our organisational membership of FIP and changing the name of our organisation to a ‘Royal College’.

I know members have strong views both on these issues and how the RPS reaches decisions.

Before discussing the rationale for these decisions, let me first describe why the assembly takes some decisions in private. I would like to stress our preference and first option is always to have discussions and make decisions in public, not in private.

However, from time to time some discussions need to be confidential. This can be for a variety of reasons, including commercial sensitivity, third party considerations, or contractual obligations, and this prevents misuse of confidential information. It also ensures compliance with the law, particularly around people and their jobs.

On occasion, the Assembly, as the key decision-making forum of the RPS, needs to be a place in which Assembly members can freely air differing views and opinions, and debate the full range of policies, strategies, and decisions around use of resources. In my view, these decisions should not be taken via the number of ‘likes’ on a social media post. Indeed, without the opportunity for confidential deliberation, it is hard to see how our system of governance could function.

Perhaps, on occasion we have been overly cautious in airing these decisions in public, and I freely admit we don’t always get this judgement right. I am sorry that because of this some members have learned about decisions from sources other than the RPS.  

In the case of the Assembly decision on FIP membership, we mutually agreed with FIP not to disclose our intention to leave FIP membership. Perhaps, in this case, it was the wrong call.

Recent commentary about the future direction of the RPS may have placed some doubt in the mind of members as to the organisation’s direction. However, I want to assure you that we are committed to putting pharmacy at the forefront of healthcare, and are unwavering in our vision to become the world leader in the safe and effective use of medicines. Since the Society was founded in 1841, we have championed the profession and want to do more in education policy and professional development. This has not, and will not, change.

I also want to offer a full explanation as to why we have chosen not to pursue a change of name and to why we have chosen to leave FIP membership.

Firstly, on changing our name to a “Royal College.”  

The decision regarding pursuit of Royal College status was taken in March 2021, when the Assembly was asked to provide a definitive position on whether it should actively pursue Royal College status in the context of developing our five- year strategy, 2021 to 2026.

The RPS took extensive advice, summarised below:

  • There is nothing that we cannot do as a Royal Society that we would be able to do as a Royal College
  • There is no evidence that changing our name would give RPS any more influence or prestige
  • Pursuing Royal College status would require substantial work and cost, which would need to be diverted from other activities
  • There is no reason to foresee any change in the environment that would change any of these points. However, if substantive change did take place, the question could be revisited.

There was a consensus of those present not to pursue Royal College status. It was agreed there was no current impediment to our ambitions in education that our existing Charter and Royal Patronage prohibited, and no material benefit of a change in status to Royal College was identified.

This meant that the RPS could pursue its legitimate activities, many of which are already of the type of a Royal College, without seeking to pursue Privy Council agreement to be renamed a Royal College for at least the life of the 2021-26 strategy.

It was decided that the content of our five-year strategy would focus on the seven strategic goals we would pursue, rather than focusing on those, such as changing our name, that we were not pursuing.

The decision to leave FIP membership

In November 2021, the RPS Assembly confirmed its intention to FIP that we would not be members from the end of 2021. This followed discussions regarding RPS membership of a range of international organisations. Prior to this, we had invited FIP to propose new ways or working with RPS to improve the value and reduce the cost of membership.

Taking these in turn:

  • We had concerns regarding the extent of the annual membership fee, the associated costs of participation in FIP events, and attendance at meetings. This amounted to an annual recurring membership fee of around £31,000, and an additional £53,000 in meeting attendance costs, travel and accommodation, etc. in 2019 (the last year a face-to-face FIP Congress was held abroad).
  • There was a strongly held view voiced by some Assembly members that there was no perceptible value in membership of FIP as currently experienced, and it was difficult to identify any return on investment. It is also true to say that other Assembly members strongly voiced the opposing view, and that there would be value if the RPS chose to make better use of its membership. 

This was a finely balanced decision and one that required a vote; the majority voted to leave FIP membership.

At the same time the RPS reconfirmed its position to sponsor the Commonwealth Pharmacy Association, as we had a strong alignment with their mission and vision for pharmacy globally.

I recognise that both of these decisions are ultimately judgements that the RPS assembly have taken on behalf of the RPS and the profession. As President, I accept my responsibility to be accountable for the decisions of the Assembly.

However, no decision is forever, and I am very keen to hear your views on these matters. If you haven’t booked already, I would encourage you to attend our AGM in May, and to please consider writing a motion if you feel strongly about these or other issues.

Any motions supported by voting members at the AGM will be considered by the Assembly in July.

I am also working with the team at the RPS to see what other mechanisms allow for better two-way dialogue.

As President I can and will be asking for changes to be made around decision making, how members can be involved and be made better aware of how the RPS decides its policies and direction.

Please judge me by these actions.

I am very keen to hear you views. Please write to me by emailing the RPS.

Prof Claire Anderson

RPS President

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