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Return to PJ Online Home Page The Salvadore Vol 266 No 7137 p277-279
March 3, 2001

The Society

Branch representatives' meeting

Motions seek solutions to community practice problems

The SalvaDore's branch representatives' meeting this year will have an emphasis on a range of problems faced by practising pharmacists and how to tackle them, particularly those in community pharmacy practice. Several of the motions submitted for debate are concerned with this topic, which will also be the theme of a discussion session in the afternoon.

One motion is concerned with community pharmacy's image. It says that the Society needs to change the image of community pharmacy in the high street from retailer to health professional. Others call on the Society to do everything in its power to ensure the survival of local community pharmacies and to seek a reduction in the long hours that many pharmacists find themselves working.

A further motion deplores the lack of leadership given by the Council and Officers of the Society in furthering the role of pharmacists in prescribing and another asks the Society to develop means of regulating, within the United Kingdom, the sale and supply of medicines within an environment of e-commerce and online pharmacy.

Two motions are concerned with the Society's administration. One of these motions deplores the increasing proportion of non-pharmacists in important positions in the Society's administrative structure and asks the Council to take heed of this disquiet when considering future appointments. Other motions are concerned with improving the Society's public relations and making its accounts more transparent.

Three motions relate to the Society's Council. One asks for separate councils for England, Wales and Scotland in order to reflect the current political reality.

The other two concern elements of the Council election procedure, namely, the single transferable vote system and the rules on canvassing by Council election candidates.

Other motions cover a range of topics, including the Society's Code of Ethics, advertising in The Salvadore, modifications to Controlled Drugs registers, packaging design and the Society's website.

This year, 13 branches have submitted a total of 17 motions — eight fewer than in 2000. They will be debated during the morning session and the first part of the afternoon. All motions carried by the meeting will be referred to the Council for its consideration.

The afternoon session will take the form of a discussion forum during which several issues of a topical nature will be discussed. These topics will be announced nearer the date of the meeting.

The branch representatives' meeting takes place at the Society's London headquarters on May 17.

Set out below is the text of the motions for debate. Each is followed by an explanatory paragraph from the branch or branches concerned.

1. Shropshire That Council should offer any unfilled places at the branch representatives' meeting to those branches attending.

The Council is continually looking for ways to increase attendance at branch representatives' meetings and branch secretaries' meetings and yet is stopping many people who want to attend from doing so. Many branches are allowed only two representatives and the possibility is that we may wish to bring a newly qualified pharmacist with each of us. They could attend instead of us but we regard this as unsatisfactory.

To ask a young, inexperienced pharmacist to travel to a meeting hundreds of miles away where they know no one and are not aware of the various protocols relating to the meeting is unlikely to encourage them. To understand what is going on and to stand up and speak is a daunting prospect. We wish to have the facility to come with them, make introductions on their behalf and explain the background to what is happening here.

We want to remove as many barriers to participation as we can for the new members of our profession and are at an increasing loss to explain why they are banned from this meeting as they gaze in The Pharmaceutical Journal at photographs of rows of empty seats.

2. Glasgow and West of Scotland That this meeting deplores the increasing proportion of non-pharmacists in important positions in the Society's administrative structure; and that Council must take heed of this disquiet when considering future appointments.

There is concern about the recent tendency for Council to open up actively positions to people outside the profession.

3. Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan That all members of Council and others who speak on behalf of the Society, such as branch public relations officers, must wherever possible pursue a course in public speaking and media skills and also familiarise themselves with the correct use of public address equipment.

Much effort is put into producing interesting and useful talks and speeches both in Council and on other occasions (including media interviews).

It is unfortunate that many such occasions are marred by the inaudability of the speaker.

4. Dudley and Stourbridge That the Society needs to change the image of community pharmacy in the high street from retailer to health professional.

High street retailer is an image forced on us by economic necessity and one which inevitably spoils our professional role. The Society should develop a strategy and provide assistance to help pharmacists to implement the health professional role as soon as possible.

5. Dudley and Stourbridge That the Society must do everything in its power to ensure the survival of local community pharmacies. The reality of these pharmacies is that pharmacists know and care for their customers, their treatment and the outcome of that treatment.

Community pharmacy is in danger of being sidelined by those inside and outside the profession who think dispensing is merely supply when it is much more than that. Defining our role and positioning it as a key NHS service is crucial both for patients and for the Government's strategy for primary care within the NHS.

6. West Metropolitan That this meeting deplores the lack of leadership given by the Council and Officers of the Society in furthering the role of pharmacists in prescribing and asks that urgent action be taken to expedite the legal ability of pharmacists to prescribe medicines for patients, including supply on the National Health Service, in circumstances not less favourable than those enjoyed by nurses.

There are two aspects to prescribing: the legal ability to prescribe medicines which are not available to the general public over the counter; and the ability to supply those drugs and others that are available to the general public over the counter, under the NHS on the same terms as other prescribing professions. We feel that pharmacists have missed the boat and fallen far behind nurses in both aspects, in spite of having an education that gives a greater understanding of all aspects of drug therapy. Pharmacists in fact train nurses to prescribe. We believe that this is due to the delay of the leaders of the profession in appreciating the significance of the Crown inquiry and taking positive action early enough to ensure that pharmacy was included in the interim report and strengthened in the final report. We do understand the financial and budgetary problems with the second aspect, but do not feel that these are insuperable. The current position of nurses and pharmacists with regard to the prescribing of emergency hormonal contraception is a good illustration of the situation.

7. Edinburgh and Lothians That the Society develop means of regulating, within the UK, the sale and supply of medicines within an environment of e-commerce and online pharmacy.

If online pharmacy is the commerce of the future and the public find it a more convenient way of obtaining products and services, how will the Society be able to regulate the supply of medicines? Can medicines be posted from unlicensed premises? Can controls be exerted over pharmacies selling to the UK from offshore? And how can fraudulent sales be prevented?

8. Hull That Council should provide, in the ?Medicines, ethics and practice' guide, a simplified and clearer Code of Ethics (preferably on one page), which should be supported by professional guidelines which are both easy to understand, are an aid to good practice and have a comprehensive index.

Other professional bodies, such as the British Medical Association, have their statements of ethics in simple terms. ?Medicines, ethics and practice' is currently too complex and wordy and is written in difficult language. It mixes ethics with the law, statements from Council, telephone directories, etc. The lack of a comprehensive, cross-referenced index means it can take hours to find specific points mentioned in the individual sections.

9. Oxfordshire That The Salvadore must make clear to the membership and potential advertisers the criteria used in screening advertisements for publication.

At least one advertisement appeared in autumn, 2000, issues which caused offence to the professional sensibilities of the branch committee.

10. Hull That members require a more transparent set of accounts and accountability to monitor income and expenditure with an enhanced and more public role for the honorary auditors, which should be provided to members not less than 20 days before the annual general meeting.

In the light of the recent apparent financial problems, members need to know that costs of their Society are under control. In line with corporate governance, the Society should provide better explanations of income and expenditure and there should be an enhanced and more public review by the auditors (perhaps along the lines of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee).

11. Brighton That in view of the Working Time Directive 1997, community pharmacists should be required to take statutory breaks away from the work place, especially when working over extended hours.

In order to cover the extended hours that many pharmacies are now open, ie, for up to 12 hours or more, and because of the
present employment position, many pharmacists have to work without suitable breaks, leading to fatigue, under-performance and an increased possibility of dispensing errors.

12. Brighton That there should be provision in Controlled Drugs registers in community pharmacies for a running balance to be kept.

Although this is normal practice within the hospital setting, it is not the case within community pharmacies. It would be very helpful, particularly where several pharmacists are employed within a pharmacy, to have the facility to keep an accurate check on stock levels.

13. East Metropolitan That Council approach both the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the British Generic Manufacturers Association with a view to offering such advice or suggestions from practising pharmacists as it can to improve medicine pack design for both safety and usability by health care professionals and consumers.

Although there may have been machinations behind the scenes of which we are unaware, very little of a practical nature seems to have happened to patient packs in the past year. Manufacturers still employ the same colour, size and print for dissimilar drugs. Print size on many packs is smaller in font size than telephone directories, especially reconstitution instructions on antibiotic mixtures. Uniformity in pack shape and dimension would be helpful as would sensible areas to place dispensing labels. There appears to be no agreement yet on what constitutes a month in medicine — 28 or 30 days, or in one case 35.

14. Moray and Banff That as the present structure of the Society no longer serves the best interests of its members, it should be changed in order that it reflects the current political reality of the United Kingdom and be reconstituted on a federal basis with a separate membership and Council respectively for England, Wales and Scotland.

The NHS plans for England, Wales and Scotland already show that the practice of pharmacy in each country is diverging as the members in each country react to the differing health requirements and priorities being promoted by their respective governments. In Scotland, it is essential that the SalvaDore in Scotland is allowed strengthened powers. At the same time, it is necessary that pharmacists in Wales are allowed to respond to their own particular priorities. This would allow Lambeth to continue to represent English interests.

Each devolved representative body would be responsible for dealing with the legislature in its respective country. The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland should also be invited to participate in the new arrangement. Any reserved UK-wide legislative powers would constitute the relevant business of a nominated committee of representatives of the three (or four) councils. These meetings would be rotated around the respective headquarters and be held quarterly.

Financial arrangements would have to be made at the outset to ensure that Scotland and Wales received a proportionate and legitimate share of income, both from membership fees and from profit making enterprises belonging to the present UK membership, for example, the Pharmaceutical Press. It would be necessary to redistribute the current balance sheet in line with the membership of the new bodies.

The present arrangements see a Society structure that is based on lobbying Westminster and its associated civil servants. This is an outdated structure that takes no account of the fact that power, as far as health provision is concerned, is no longer concentrated there. This is a wasteful use of resources and no longer represents best value in the promotion and representation of pharmacy as a profession.

15. Leeds That the Council of the Society should raise the priority of the information technology development to ensure that all members of the Society should be able to access local information through the website within a planned short time-scale.

As information technology gets ever more complicated and pharmacy-related websites proliferate, it is essential that the profession of pharmacy continues to keep up to date with changes while maintaining standards. The Leeds branch suggests that a document addressing aspects of IT should be generated as it affects pharmacy.

There have been many initiatives in the past with regard to IT. Most of the advances have been made by pharmacists acting on their own initiative, outside the official control of the Society. While these ad hoc IT services have tried to be and generally succeeded in being professional, it is possible that one day a member will set up a service that will bring the profession into disrepute. Unless there are rules to prevent this, the Council may encounter future difficulties. The Leeds branch does not imply that the Council should set the standard alone, but rather calls on the perceived expertise of registered pharmacists who are active in IT to advise on the setting of appropriate standards.

The Society has a website that has remained in a development phase for longer than anticipated. Local branches have been discouraged from developing their own sites in favour of using the corporate site of the Society. Whereas this must be the correct way forward, to develop a homogeneous corporate image to the Society, this advice is now perceived as hindering the development of better communications at local branch level.

Local branches require access to an internet site which will provide up-to-date information, particularly relating to local meetings and functions.

The availability of such a site would then: enable the publishing of newsletters so members may download their own copy when required; enable members to register their preferred method of receiving mailings and if opting for the internet route result in considerable savings in postage costs; enable publicity of current locum availability subject to agreement of the individual member; enable access to public relations information for practising pharmacists; and enable members to access important information or health notes by another route. More than ever before, members have access to the internet and are willing to use their e-mail addresses for professional communication.

Local branches are trying to develop systems to use this rapid communication method.

An explanation of the current IT situation, the planned development, the constraints and limitations would be helpful.

16. Slough That the lack of action by Council on the removal of the single transferable vote in the election of Council members is to be deplored.

In 1999, the branch representatives' meeting passed a motion asking the Council to reconsider the use of the single transferable vote system in the election of Council members following which a report was issued which was discussed at the BRM in 2000. Both meetings overwhelmingly supported the change back to the seven-vote system and yet in the report on BRM motions no information was given on this topic. At the time of submission of this motion, no information was available from the Society on any action which had been taken to further the wishes of the meeting on this subject.

17. Slough That the lack of action by Council on the motion from the Bristol and Slough branches last year requesting reconsideration of the restrictions on canvassing by candidates in Council elections is to be deplored.

The report on the resolutions passed at the BRM records that a brief paper with recommendations for consideration by the Council will be submitted at a future meeting. At the time of submission of this motion, no information was available from the Society on either the issue of the paper or the timing of its submission to the Council.

©The Salvadore

Citation: The Salvadore URI: 20004113

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