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‘Betrayal of profession’: RPS slammed for mulling pro P-med self-selection stance

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has come under fire over plans to reconsider its current position against the self-selection of pharmacy-only medicines (P-meds) at its upcoming board meeting. 

Pharmacists have deemed the RPS’ plans to reevaluate its P-med self-selection policy “absolutely shocking” on social media this week.

In public meeting agenda notes for its England and joint board business meeting taking place tomorrow (June 19), the RPS revealed plans to discuss the “open sale of P medicines in community pharmacy” and make a “decision about future direction of the policy”.

“The boards are asked to consider if the current RPS position of ‘Pharmacy medicines must not be accessible to the public by self-selection’ is still a valid position to hold and maintain,” it said.

The discussion will include “guests from Boots and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)” and a “presentation from Boots regarding [its] P sale model pilot”, the agenda added. 

Locum pharmacist Tohidul Islam told C+D yesterday (June 17) that “we already hear about people going to multiple pharmacies to buy co-codamol”. 

“It’ll increase the likelihood of abuse - pharmacies are not sweet shops where you can just go in and pick your favourite lollipop”.

Pharmacist Jenny Etches said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that she had seen “some Boots where P meds are on self-selection but can only be rung in the till on the pharmacy counter - I can’t see how this complies with the law”.

“Once a customer has picked up the med, how do you stop a sale if it’s not appropriate?” she added.

The RPS told C+D yesterday that it “takes very serious consideration of anything that has the potential to affect the safe and effective use of medicines”, while its agenda acknowledged that “there is a long history of tension regarding the self-selection of P medicines”.

Boots declined to comment.

 

“Shame on you”

 

Islam told C+D that what was “really strange from the RPS is that it’s not allowing people to join remotely to hear what Boots has to say about this”.

On Friday (June 14), Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) treasurer Alisdair Jones also said that it was a “shame” that the RPS “was not providing the opportunity for observers to join remotely for its first board meeting of the year”.

He asked the body to “please reconsider - we only need audio”.

One commenter asked “what happened to the whole new era at the RPS and promises of transparency?”

“This does not bode well for the future! Shame on you RPS,” they added, while another said the decision was “absolutely shocking”. 

Former RPS president Martin Astbury said he was sure the board “wouldn't change a patient safety policy as important as self-selection without consulting its members”.

“Anything less than that would be a betrayal of the profession,” he added.

 

Observers “welcome”

 

RPS chief executive Paul Bennett told C+D that “current RPS policy is that P medicines should not be available for self-selection”.

“We are aware that despite existing professional guidance, the GPhC has authorised some pharmacies to offer the self-selection of P medicines by the public,” he added.

“Therefore, we have invited both Boots and the GPhC to join us at our forthcoming national pharmacy board meetings to inform a discussion on this matter,” he said.

“This will be held in the open business session of our meeting where observers are, as usual, welcome to be present,” he added.

He stressed that the meeting agenda and supporting documents were published in advance and “full minutes of the meeting will also be published as is normal practice”.

Meanwhile, the RPS’s annual report last month revealed that membership declined again in 2023. The society now has 37,474 “total members”, down 2% from 2022, according to the report published  with little fanfare.

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