Royal Pharmaceutical Society

World Pharmacist Day 2020

by Catherine Walker, RPS Museum Officer 

Pharmacists, throughout history, have supported their communities. Not only by dispensing medicine, but through a range of services that increase their patients’ quality of life.

The role of a pharmacist as someone we go to for advice has been longstanding. In the days of the apothecary, patients would go for specialised advice on what remedy to take for their ailment. Later, when the profession of pharmacy became more established, pharmacists were encouraged to put the patient first. In the 1950s when the photograph above was taken, it was not enough to dispense medicine, it was also important to provide the correct advice on how to take it. Correctly educating patients on how best to take the medicines prescribed to them is still a vital part of the pharmacist’s role.

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle through education has also been a vital part of the role of the pharmacist. Nutrition was included as part of the curriculum at the Society’s School of Pharmacy. This picture below from the 1930s shows the Nutrition Department’s Food Preparation room, where students discovered the impact of diet on patients. The idea that the pharmacists should take a more holistic view of patient’s health, educating patients on choices around diet, sleep and exercise, is becoming more important as we understand the further connection between lifestyle and health.

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While nicotine gum was made available to pharmacists to administer to patients in the 1990s, pharmacists in industry had been exploring ways to encourage healthy lifestyles for decades before.

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These early anti-smoking tablets claimed to help ‘stop the tobacco habit’ and were available from 1950 until 1962. This show that even at a time when smoking was a widespread habit, pharmacists were exploring ways to help people to make healthy choices.

The role of the pharmacist continues to evolve, particularly in the face of new challenges. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way that pharmacists transform health through education, support and advice.


We need your support.


Your dedication and commitment during the pandemic has been exceptional.

As we brace for a surge of coronavirus infections, we know that pharmacy will be at the forefront of delivering healthcare.

Whether it’s flu vaccinations or dealing with local lockdowns we need decisions and assurances from the Government to make sure our profession can cope. We must make sure pharmacists get enough supplies of PPE, rapid access to testing in all care settings, and the recognition you deserve.

You told us that our leadership and resources during in the early months of the pandemic were of critical importance. We are now updating our highly valued COVID-19 resources and training webinars to make sure they reflect current - and changing - guidance.

If the enormous mental and physical strain of the past few months is repeated ahead of this winter, the health service will be on its knees. We will be there to make sure pharmacists get mental health and wellbeing support.

We will continue to work hard to give you the tools and guidance to do your job safely. And fight to make sure you get the recognition you deserve.
We are proud to support you. But without members, none of this will be possible.

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