Interview with Sandra Melville, previous Chair and departing Scottish Board Member

Sandra MelvilleSandra Melville MSc, FRPharmS, FFRPS joined the Scottish Pharmacy Board in 2007, becoming Chair in 2008. During her time on the board, Sandra witnessed seismic changes to Scottish pharmacy, including the creation of the devolved Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland and the introduction of Prescription of Excellence. Last month she supported RPS Scotland by giving evidence on Seven Day Services at the Health and Sport committee. Our director, Alex MacKinnon, interviews Sandra as she leaves the board to continue her work in hospital pharmacy in Oban.


Why did you decide to stand for election to the Scottish Pharmaceutical Board in the first place?

Like many pharmacists, my professional focus was largely taken up with the everyday challenges of my day job, and becoming involved in pharmacy politics was not something I had considered. This outlook changed for me when the work I had done in prescribing was recognised through The Pharmaceutical Care Awards in 2006. This made me aware of two things; firstly, how important it is for pharmacists to share the positive experiences we encounter when we move out of our comfort zones, and secondly, having gained a lot of satisfaction from being fortunate enough to be able to do just that, I realised that this had been made possible by those who had worked so hard to bring about the changes which had enabled our profession to move forward into roles such as prescribers. I felt strongly that it was time I gave something back to our wonderful profession.


What were the biggest challenges facing pharmacy at that time?

The publication of the revolutionary strategy “The Right Medicine” in 2002 had introduced a new chapter in the opportunities available to pharmacists to contribute to the health of the nation. Groundbreaking in its time, it moved Scotland significantly ahead of other countries by recognising that, across the board, it is in the provision of pharmaceutical care that our unique expertise lies, and as this is the particular value we add to patient care it should be the primary focus of the services we deliver. This also heightened the awareness of the increasing diversity in the delivery of healthcare within the home nations, a situation to which the (then) RPSGB, had responded by successfully making the case for a devolved structure within its own governance arrangements.

Change was not just in the air, it was happening in everyday practise and it was happening within the professional body. As is often the case, it was embraced by some, welcomed by others and feared by many. It highlighted more than ever the need for a strong professional body which would support pharmacists to take on the new roles expected of them, and to ensure that the valuable contribution they made to patient care was recognised by policy-makers, the public and other health professionals.

This was the backdrop as the National Pharmacy Boards came into existence in February 2007, with a remit of professional leadership and support. The call went out for candidates to stand for election to these Boards. For me, it was one I couldn’t ignore.


What changes have you seen during your time on the board?

It’s hard to imagine now that such a short time ago our professional body was still charged with the function of being the profession’s regulator. Thankfully these days are gone and we have the GPhC to undertake the regulation of pharmacy, freeing the RPS to focus entirely on supporting members to provide the best care they can for their patients.

To do this, an enormous step change was required. It was not a simply a matter of “de-merging” the functions of the old RPSGB and creating a new Charter to be accepted by members. Much, much, more than that, it required a change in the culture of the Society. I’m delighted to be able to say that the RPS has emerged from this period of change as a strong member-focussed organisation which advocates on behalf of the profession, and supports pharmacists throughout their professional journey.


What is your proudest moment?

The launch of the RPS Faculty has to be up there, heralding a new level of professional recognition in line with the Royal College system which has served the medical profession so well. It stands testament to the commitment RPS has to empowering members to achieve their potential for the benefit of patients.


How do you feel RPS Scotland can better support pharmacists with Prescription for Excellence?

Prescription for Excellence provides further opportunity to really harness the skills and expertise of pharmacists for the better care of the population. It is visionary, exciting and challenging. The RPS has a huge role in bringing all sectors of the profession together, ensuring inclusivity and facilitating the sharing of best practice.


What piece of advice would you pass on to future Board Members?

Become involved and never doubt how much you can contribute.


What are your hopes for RPS?

That it continues to provide the leadership and support for member and patient benefit and ultimately develops into a Royal College for Pharmacy.


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