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RPS obscures declining membership numbers in latest annual report

The RPS has said that numbers of “full members…[remain] a challenge” in its annual report for 2023.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) membership declined again in 2023 according to its latest annual report, but the professional body chose not to disclose how many of its members were paid members this year, after doing so in 2022.

The society now has 37,474 “total members”, down 2% from 2022, according to the report published this week (May 8) with little fanfare.

But “the number of full members, which is the largest category, remains a challenge,” it added.

Read more: Pharmacy leadership board hits back at ‘transparency’ concerns

According to its 2022 annual report, the RPS’s “paying membership” was 26,137 - accounting for 68% of its total membership of 38,193.

Paid membership is available to registered pharmacists, foundation year trainee pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and retired pharmacists, while there is a free membership option available for MPharm students, according to its website.

 

Membership revenue down

 

The 2023 annual report also revealed that revenue from membership has declined by 4% to £4.5 million.

It said that the number of “student” members had grown in the year, suggesting that paid members may have fallen by more than the overall 2% decline mentioned in the report.

Read more: 'Appallingly hand-picked cronies': New leadership commission comes under fire

Meanwhile, the RPS’s membership numbers were not one of the 18 figures highlighted in its “2023 in numbers” infographic at the bottom of its 2023 annual review webpage.

The RPS’s membership has been in decline for years, with its 2021 annual report describing its total membership as 38,630, down from “40,194 at the end of 2020”.

 

PDA queries RPS membership

 

It comes as the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has raised the issue of the professional society’s murky membership numbers in a set of questions posed to prospective candidates for the RPS’s national boards.

In her response to the PDA’s call for full membership figures to be published, RPS president Claire Anderson said only that the society has been “publishing our membership number in our annual report for the last few years”.

Chair of the RPS’s English pharmacy board Tase Oputu meanwhile said in her response to the trade union that disclosing membership numbers is “not the sole or most significant measure” of transparency.

Read more: RPS launches new project to tackle medicines shortages

Oputu said that she has been “vocal in calling for openness in the work of the RPS” and had “supported calls for ensuring that only the most sensitive items are placed on the confidential agenda”.

She added that she was committed to following up on actions that would “significantly decrease the perception that the RPS is not a transparent organisation”.

In a response published before this week’s report, current RPS treasurer and election candidate Alisdair Jones told the PDA that he had "previously argued that [membership numbers] should be released" and that he was "pleased that they are now published in the annual report". 

 

“All members equally important”

 

A spokesperson for the RPS would not say why it only published the society’s total membership numbers, after providing numbers of paying members in 2022.

The spokesperson also declined to provide C+D with a breakdown of the RPS’s membership.

“All our members are equally important to us,” they said, adding that the RPS “will continue to report total numbers” in its annual report going forwards.

Read more: ‘Much-needed continuity’: Claire Anderson re-elected as RPS president

“Every voluntary membership organisation faces external issues such as the very real cost of living pressures confronting their membership, emphasising the need for us to work even harder to demonstrate value to our members,” the spokesperson told C+D.

“As the professional leadership body, we are continually building on our position as a trusted, forward-looking organisation that works openly and collaboratively with others to both attract and retain members and create the strength and unity in leadership that pharmacy deserves,” they added.

Read more: UPDATED: Erutase Oputu replaces Thorrun Govind as RPS England chair

The PDA revealed in July that its “independently certified” membership totalled 36,806 pharmacists, increasing by 2,296 members since the previous year.

At the end of March this year, there were 64,393 UK pharmacists on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) register, up 3% from end-March 2023, according to its trend data.

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