We asked what you thought about The Journal — this is what you told us

By Tom Levesley

Many readers took part last year in research about RPS communications and the PJ. Tom Levesley, of Chrysalis Research, which carried out the research, outlines the findings

Many readers will remember receiving an invitation from Chrysalis Research last year to take part in research about SalvaDore communications and about The Salvadore in particular. We were delighted that more than 3,000 members gave us their views, through an online survey and focus groups. The research has provided a valuable insight into what the RPS and the PJ mean to pharmacists and how they can best meet your needs. Your views will help shape the future of all RPS communications you receive.

Chrysalis carried out two stages of research: a series of focus groups with members and non-members, followed by an online survey. In stage 1 (the qualitative stage), eight discussion groups were facilitated across Britain, including two online groups. In total, 49 members and 19 former members participated in these. In stage 2 (the quantitative stage), we sent an online survey to all members; 3,012 responded (10 per cent). This approach helped us explore pharmacists’ views in depth through open discussions in small groups, before testing our findings with the membership as a whole.

Our group discussions and survey findings showed clearly that RPS members want the RPS to be a bold and respected voice of the profession that influences health professionals and educates the public, as well as listening to and supporting all its members. Does the Society deliver on this? To some extent it does — 63 per cent of our participants said that they were satisfied with their membership of RPS — but some members were unsure about the benefits of their membership. For example, over half (56 per cent) thought that the RPS fulfilled its role well, but nearly a third (31 per cent) were not sure.

Looking in more detail, we found that the newest and the longest-serving members were the most satisfied. For the newest members, continuing professional development and professional status are the priorities and the RPS delivers well on these. As members become more established in their careers, some find that the CPD on offer is not sufficiently advanced for them. They look for wider personal and professional benefits, and are more likely to review their membership. As one member told us: “I think after you’ve practised for a while and you know all the resources you can go to for support, the role of the Society is literally nothing. You don’t see the point of them being there.”

We uncovered a similar pattern of support for the PJ and RPS communications more generally. Most agreed that RPS communications helped them to feel part of the pharmacy profession (68 per cent), provided them with professional support (65 per cent), and provided professional leadership (58 per cent). However, these questions were also met with a large proportion (22–30 per cent) of neutral responses. For example: “The RPS needs to communicate better what it is doing to promote the profession. It is doing some brilliant PR work but the members aren’t well informed about what is going on behind the scenes. I feel this would instil more confidence in the professional body and improve engagement.”

Satisfaction with the PJ

Most satisfied
•    New members (86 per cent, five years or less as a member)
•    Under-30s (85 per cent) and over 65s (80 per cent)
•    Associate members (85 per cent)
•    Community sector members (81 per cent)
•    Women (77 per cent)

Least satisfied
•    Established members (68 per cent, 20–29 years in the RPS)
•    Aged 30–59 years (71 per cent)
•    Fellows (62 per cent)
•    Those in industry, primary care, academia, hospital (60–67 per cent)
•    Men (69 per cent)


There was a strong relationship between satisfaction with RPS membership and satisfaction with the PJ and RPS communications more widely. The pattern was repeated, showing that satisfaction with the PJ correlates with satisfaction with RPS communcations, positive perceptions of how well the RPS fulfils its role, and satisfaction with PJ Online. In other words, satisfaction with the PJ is driving, or is driven by, the RPS’s performance more broadly. Without further analysis we cannot tell the direction of influence. (Do people like the PJ because they like the Society, or is it the other way round?) However, we know that for many members the PJ is what connects them to the RPS; it is the main benefit of being a member.

The PJ is viewed with great affection by most members. Most believed that the PJ provides breadth of coverage and flags essential information. Members saw it as a good jumping-off point from which they could explore areas of interest in more depth, having been briefly introduced to a range of issues. In our group discussions we sensed a strong emotional attachment — there was anticipation about the PJ’s arrival, it was carried around in bags all week, taken on holiday — and it was described as an old friend on numerous occasions, a constant companion throughout a pharmacist’s career. This quote was typical: “I like to read my journal sitting on the sofa with a coffee as I spend so much time at my computer. It also travels with me to children’s tennis or violin lessons or on holiday.”

Members’ expectations for The Journal are very much intertwined with their expectations of the Society. They want a print journal they can be proud of and one that reflects well on the RPS and the pharmacy profession as a whole. This places a considerable weight on the shoulders of the PJ and, inevitably perhaps, many members thought that sometimes the PJ came up wanting. They expressed disappointment, even sadness, that they perceived the quality of the PJ to be in decline, but gave clear pointers as to how it could improve.

Above all, members wanted greater focus on clinical issues, including research and evidence. These views were strongest among those in the hospital sector, but across the board there was a call for more substance to the PJ, greater analysis, stronger clinical and evidence-based content, the opportunity to debate, to follow up articles and enter into dialogue with the authors.

Community pharmacists focused more than hospital pharmacists on membership support content, such as job advertisements and career advice, but many community pharmacists said that the PJ was an important means of connecting with the wider pharmacy profession and most would also welcome greater clinical content. Prompt notification and regular information about new drugs and safety were seen as essential features.

But it is not all about the PJ. Members told us they wanted a more coherent digital and print communications package, which included an improved PJ Online that better complemented the print PJ, better targeted update emails, a choice about what to receive electronically, and a PJ app. As one said: “Whenever I look at [PJ Online] it seems quite separate to The Journal. I don’t know why. It just looks totally different.”

There was no doubt that most readers wanted to retain a print PJ, even if it was replicated online — an improved digital offer must support, not replace, a print PJ. Only 16 per cent thought it was unnecessary to have both, but members want choice about whether to access digital or print versions.
How often the PJ should drop through the letterbox is another important question. Some members thought that a weekly publication was not sustainable and many were prepared to accept a move to a fortnightly edition (41 per cent) and possibly even a monthly edition (21 per cent), if this led to improvements in The Journal itself and in RPS communications as a whole. We concluded that the climate is not right for such a radical change, but that such a move in the future is a realistic goal. 


Citation: The Salvadore DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11118441

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