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Aileen Bryson on why voting in the RPS elections matters

Aileen Bryson

Unfortunately, there will be no election in Scotland this year because only two members have put themselves forward for. There are 4 places to fill this year. However, Aileen still took time to share her thoughts and help us understand the role of the board and why voting, in this case in England and Wales is so important.

What’s the point in voting?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our members. By electing their chosen representatives to the national boards our members set out the strategic direction of the RPS. The board members then have a mandate from their ‘constituents’ i.e our members to act on what matters to them, to shape the direction of travel for the profession, to set out the business plans and prioritise work streams for each country.

Does it really make a difference who is on the board?

The composition of the board is incredibly important. We have been fortunate in Scotland in previous years to have had good representation from across all sectors and from geographically diverse areas of Scotland. We need practitioners who are strong leaders with a vision of how they want the profession to develop and to be able to influence change on many levels.

How much influence do board members have in the direction of the RPS?

Who is elected really does matter also because as well as setting out the business plan in Scotland, two Scottish Pharmacy Board members are elected to the Assembly which is the governance body of the organisation, setting the overall strategic direction. Board members will also serve on cross board GB-wide working groups, so it is paramount that we have the breadth of experience and skill set to maximise Scottish members’ influence on GB-wide issues to ensure any outcomes are suitable for the devolved Scottish health care system.

We strive to operate through consensus, so board members really do have a lot of influence both at the individual national board level and through the three national boards collectively. Board members debate issues and options in detail, bringing their specific expertise and line of argument into the mix, resulting in, for example, a robust policy, an improved member resource, or a political engagement programme that best advocates on behalf of our members and the profession as a whole.

How much influence does the Scottish board have in the Assembly?

The make-up of the Assembly has been criticised as being heavy with English board members, based on proportionate representation. However, its worth remembering that there is also a lay member, a science representative and representative from Pharmacy Schools Council and to date, the Scottish members have worked very well in bringing issues to a successful conclusion.

An example is the development of a roadmap for professional development and support for pharmacy technicians so that we can start conversations with APTUK about what we can do with and for Pharmacy Technicians. The Assembly (with Scottish input) ensured that this paves the way for RPS to develop ways in which all registrants can have access to professional development opportunities and support for revalidation. The concept of a category of membership for technicians has always been supported by the Scottish Board, who supported this as a pragmatic way forward.

Are there any characteristics that make someone a good board member?

Having a diversity of team players makes the board a strong leadership body. Passion for the profession, practice experience and some time to devote to moving things forward as it does involve commitment outside board days. Not being afraid to speak out combined with a spirit of collegiality is a good combination…and of course, a good sense of humour always helps.

Once on the board, how can we track the contribution of board members?

That is a great question. We are conscious that as the board makes a collegiate decision it is sometimes difficult to ascertain the individual contributions. At the moment, it is probably mainly through the minutes, involvement in the
development of local events, leading seminar workshops, speaking slots at external conferences, writing of articles or commenting on a media enquiry.

We are always keen to hear views from members as to how we can best engage, so would also welcome any feedback on how we could ensure the work of their board members is more visible.

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