FIP – like hosting the pharmacy Olympics

I spent the first week of September in a surprisingly sunny Glasgow, at the 2018 FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. This was the 78th FIP event and the first time it had been held in the UK for nearly 40 years. We had the privilege and huge challenge of hosting it – and let no one underestimate the size of this challenge! A global gathering of pharmacists and we were responsible for the venue, the catering, much of the programme, the formal opening ceremony and the big events. It’s like hosting the Olympics except for pharmacy! It took considerable effort from our great events team and many other colleagues to plan and deliver this.

The ‘myth’ concerns the view sometimes expressed that such events are irrelevant to the majority of the profession and are only for a select few – the ‘pharmacy elite’ from academia, science, research and pharmacy politics. If you’d asked me previously what FIP was all about, I may have told you rather dismissively and from an uninformed position, that it was not really relevant to us in the UK, out of reach to the ‘typical’ pharmacist and out of touch with the younger generation. What a huge misconception that proved to be!

Glasgow 2018 really did dispel that myth for me. Many community pharmacists and their representative organisations were in attendance actively participating in the event, as well as people from hospital practice and chief pharmacists from all across the globe, including our own from here in the UK.

FIP Congress proved to be a hugely successful showcase for us to demonstrate all the activities the RPS is undertaking to support our profession and our members in Great Britain and beyond. People who travelled from all over the world to take part – from Japan and China, Trinidad & Tobago, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, America, Iceland and Europe – greeted us warmly, eager to talk to us. They wanted to know what we’re working on at the RPS and were especially interested in the area of life-long learning, foundation training and advanced practice.

Instead of being the talking-shop I feared, the conference proved to be a real opportunity for us to face outwards, engaging with healthcare professionals who care deeply about the role of pharmacy and pharmaceutical science. We learned from others while promoting the great work taking place in the UK. At a special event organised by the RPS on the Sunday morning, we presented to a packed room a showcase of what pharmacy in GB is all about. We heard from cutting-edge community pharmacists to eminent British scientists, and it made me really proud to be a British pharmacist.

As a consequence of inspiring conversations with new contacts, a significant number signed up as RPS members. These are people of all ages and backgrounds who see the benefit of belonging to the RPS, often in addition to the professional body in their own home country. Our new mission and vision really resonated with them and this was a clear demonstration to me that we’re on the right path.

The RPS has an important role in bringing together pharmacists, scientists and healthcare professionals from across the world as well as across Great Britain and the experience we’ve gained from hosting big events like this – FIP had over 3,200 attendees – has got us all thinking about hosting future RPS conferences at scale, where we’ll provide great programme content, facilitate networking and demonstrate value.

Forgive my indulgence in reflecting on our ‘moment of glory’ and celebrating our success as a true ‘one RPS’ team that pulled together to shout loudly and proudly about our profession on a global stage.

Now we’re back to the day job, getting on with all the plans and projects we need to drive forward if we are to achieve our vision of becoming the world leader in the safe and effective use of medicines.

Together we are pharmacy!

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