STRONG professional leadership bodies for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are essential to support and promote the professions; and by doing so, ultimately contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of the public.
However, the ultimate success of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APT UK) is determined by the resources available to them, paid for through membership fees. Significant membership numbers also give them the mandate to represent their professions.
For both organisations retention of members and attracting new members is crucial to their existence and while both support members with professional guidance to ensure they provide care to their patients and adhere to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)standards, which ultimately also benefits pharmacy owners, a Pharmacy in Practice survey of owners has revealed that when it comes to reimbursement of membership fees, there is little corporate support for the organisations.
We explored pharmacy owners’ attitudes to membership of these organisations, and asked them the following questions:
- Do you reimburse employee pharmacists the cost of membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), or other professional organisations?
- Do you reimburse employee pharmacy technicians the cost of membership of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APT UK), or other professional organisations?
- Is it important for your professional employees to be members of professional organisations?
We discovered that only one chain, Boots, contributed to RPS fees — but not APT fees — while the majority of companies we contacted all reimbursed the full GPhC fees.
Boots explains: “We offer reimbursement for all or part (depending on the number of hours worked) of the GPhC retention fees to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and half of the RPS fees, including full reimbursement of the Faculty fee to help our pharmacists’ personal development and progress towards future revalidation. We also fully reimburse RPS membership for foundation pharmacists.”
The company currently employs 2,828 pharmacy technicians and pre-registration pharmacy technicians. And, while it does not currently reimburse APT (UK) membership fees, it says: “We continue to review the reimbursement of fees to membership of all other organisations, including the cost of membership of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians (UK)”.
It does say, however, that it believes “it is important to support our pharmacists’ membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and encourage them to join as a means to further their professional network, access wider CPD and prepare for revalidation through the Faculty, all of which we believe to be complementary to the development and benefits we offer as an employer.”
Lloydspharmacy meanwhile, with around 1,500 pharmacies employs around 1,200 technicians but does not routinely reimburse RPS or APT fees: “Our colleagues have access to a wide range of materials to support them in their roles day-to-day. For a number of our support roles, where appropriate, we do reimburse colleagues the cost of membership to their relevant professional organisations. This means they are equipped to pass on useful information to our store teams through our own materials and communication platforms.”
Nevertheless, it does place value on membership: “We recognise the value of our colleagues becoming members of professional bodies. It gives them the opportunity to stay connected with other professionals, grow their professional network and develop their knowledge through the available training and development resources.
“Whilst we do encourage our pharmacists and technicians to join their recognised organisations, we leave it up to them to decide if they are interested in doing so. For example, as part of our pre-registration training programme, we invite the RPS to come and talk to our trainees so they better understand the organisation and the benefits of membership.”
Well, with 780 pharmacies and 773 pharmacy technicians also reimburses GPhC fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, but only reimburses “defined pharmacist roles” for example the superintendents team, and the learning and development team. It is currently trialling membership of APT (UK) with two technicians in the superintendent’s team. And while it invited RPS to talk to pre-regs about the benefits of membership it says “it’s up to the individual if they join or not”.
Similarly, Rowlands also pays the GPhC fees for all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and reimburses RPS membership fees for a number of staff who carry out professional support roles in head office and the field. They do not, however, reimburse APT (UK) membership, and currently employ 630 registered technicians.
“We encourage and support our staff to take responsibility for being a professional seriously, which would include maintaining the appropriate level of knowledge for the tasks they carry out, acting in a manner that befits a professional,” explains Margaret MacRury, Superintendent Director, Rowlands Pharmacy.
Asda reimburses employee pharmacists the cost of GPhC Registration costs for Asda Pharmacists and its 20 registered pharmacy technicians, but not RPS fees.
But superintendent, Faisal Tuddy says: “I would actively encourage pharmacists and technicians to take part in professional organisations, as it is through active participation that we drive and shape the profession of pharmacy.”
What about independents? We contacted a number of independents, but many failed to reply. The only company that did, the Right Medicine group, which has 22 pharmacies reimburses RPS fees for newly qualified pharmacists on their early years program, but not for any other pharmacists.
The company employs around 6 technicians, but does not reimburse membership of APT. Asked if it was important for their employees to be members of professional organisations, Mike Embrey, Director & Superintendent Pharmacist at Right Medicine Pharmacy said: “No. We actively support our employees in ways which don’t involve reimbursement of membership fees including working closely with the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS).
“We also provide lots of support from our head office and organise a company annual conference and occasional local events which are educational and enable peer-peer discussion.”
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APT (UK) President, Tess Finn, told Pharmacy in Practice: “Being a member of a professional body provides numerous benefits, not least showing that a practitioner has reached a certain level of expertise.
“Professional bodies also support professionals to maintain quality standards for professional ethics and performance, which in turn protects their profession’s reputation, practitioners and the general public.
“For pharmacy technicians this is the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK and our members can use a post nominal, MAPharmT, to recognise their commitment to continued learning and professionalism. This is a recognised mark that can increase confidence for patients, the public and employers.
“We are able to provide a range of resources and services to our members, that non-members do not have access to, which can also enhance credibility in the eyes of the consumer. The pharmacy regulator and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers have all clearly promoted that pharmacy professionals benefit from professional membership.
“Also there have been other numerous calls for leadership action by employers in considering inclusion of membership of professional leadership bodies in job descriptions. Although this is starting to materialise it is slow in gaining momentum. Membership fees, particularly for Pharmacy Technicians, are generally a personal financial cost, even though employers can benefit from improved knowledge, sharing of best practice and technical expertise of members.
“APTUK, however, are delighted to be working with Day Lewis Pharmacy, who are supporting professional membership for their pharmacy technicians for one year. We are pleased to welcome our new members and the richness this will bring to our membership as we learn and work together.”
It would seem therefore that while the majority of owners we spoke to were happy to reimburse professional registration with the GPhC — essential for practice — and while they expect members to maintain their professional status, they only reimburse head office staff and not people involved in day-to-day professional activities in pharmacies.
It’s surely in everyone’s interests to have strong professional leadership bodies and staff who engage fully and benefit from the available resources and support that these organisations provide.
Given that 53 per cent of pharmacy technicians’ and 72 per cent of pharmacists’ main jobs are in community pharmacy1, wouldn’t it be a real statement if community pharmacy owners actively supported the RPS and APT?
What a strong message it’d send to workforces throughout the UK if multiples reimbursed pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ membership fees. Not only would it give a much-needed boost to membership numbers, but it’d send a clear signal that they are fully behind their employees professional development and were actively supporting the profession.
What have they got to lose?