I'll come clean - as Board members we do get a reduced rate but we do not get all our expenses covered unless we are chairing a session or speaking in some capacity.
The venue this year was Birmingham - something of a change from the London campuses of recent years - and I have to say that I much preferred it. It was possible to find a relatively cheap hotel, although I wasn't sure I wanted to be quite so close to something called the Rocket club, and transport links are fairly good.
I know that Birmingham is also a pretty good shopping centre but I resisted the temptation to bunk off because, as a board member, I thought it was important to access as much of the conference as possible and also to speak to as many people as possible.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow account but there are some highlights worthy of mention. The whole event got off to a flying start with an innovative and energising presentation from Professor Eddie Obeng. He managed to get delegates interacting with each other and provided much food for thought and my only criticism was that the session was too short. My other personal highlight was the speech given by David Nicholson, Chief Exec of the NHS Commissioning Board. His speech was entirely without notes and he gave the clear message that we should be doing more to make sure that we were an indispensable part of the commissioning landscape. He clearly understood the contribution that pharmacy can make but wasn't going to spoonfeed the profession.
There were a host of other presentations but I did wonder on some occasions whether we had the right format. In some sessions we had four loosely connected presentations and although there were questions after there was not really any scope for a wider debate. I may be the oddball here because I am used to the party conference format where there is a bit more of a free for all discussion after presentations so I will be particularly interested in the conference feedback.
One thing I did note was the absence of some of the great and good. Looking through the attendance list I was surprised not to see some of the more well known names from the Corporate sector although the NPA were well represented. That said, I think there is a challenge for all of us in trying to attract more people. I, for one, got a lot out of the sessions and I know that other community pharmacists would benefit. So, why don't more people come? There is a cost but, in the grand scheme of things, it is not onerous. So, is the content wrong or would attendance still be low whatever we did to improve things? Answers on a postcard please.........