Wednesday, 12 September 2012

RPS Conference

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.........

Meet the pre regs - Great Western LPF

Each board member is allocated a Local Practice Forum or two (or even three) and the idea is that we provide a link to the English Pharmacy Board. Boards also have a dedicated administrator so, in theory, there should be plenty of linkage between the RPS and its members. 

Being the new girl I did not get my first choice but I was happy to be allocated Great Western as it is not that far away and I studied at Bath. I was a little more concerned about being allocated Peninsula (Devon and Cornwall) but this was because the physical distance means that it is less easy to actively keep in touch in the hands on way I would prefer. Having said that though, it's not all bad because hopefully I can combine the occasional visit with a catch up with some of my mates in that region. 

So, I was quite pleased when I realised that I could actually make the social event in Bristol to which all the pre reg students were invited along to meet the steering group. The aim was to try and engage and also to encourage the students to sign up as associate members of the RPS. 

So, I chatted to some of the attendees and asked why they had come. Some mentioned that free food and drink is always good and I reflected that this is an adage which seems to ring true for students, conference attendees and even MPs. Flippancy aside, it was clear that many of the attendees wanted to become involved in shaping the profession and were already associate members of the RPS. Even more encouragingly, some of the steering group were still well within the first flush of youth which helped to make the whole thing more relevant. 

I had headed for the event thinking that I would be making a short presentation on the benefits of joining the RPS but Phil Rogers had other ideas and with a few moments to spare he told me that he wanted me to "say something inspirational". This is not always the easiest thing to do at the drop of a hat if you want to make it relevant and want to avoid sounding cheesy but I picked up on a few of the things the students had mentioned, tried to make it humorous and tried to leave things on a positive note. Hopefully it worked and I captured the moment and it would be great to feel that someone was a teensy bit inspired.  As I write this I recall an occasion when I addressed a group of students who had just been handed their GCSE certificates. I spoke about being true to yourself and if you knew you were doing something that was't right for you then only you had the power to change it, It was OK at the time but a couple of week's later I was hounded down in Waitrose by an irate mother shouting, "Mrs Gidley? I want a word with you!"  (It was always a bad sign if I was Mrs Gidley and not Sandra). It transpired that her son had taken my words to heart and completely changed his A levels telling them that the MP had told him it was OK!. I asked what the problem was and it seemed to boil down to the fact that parents preferred the academic first choice rather than the arty preferences of their son. I asked if he was happy. The mother looked at me blankly and I repeated the question. "Well," she replied, "I suppose he is at least going to college now and not bunking off!" I do not know the longer term outcome of the story and will never know if the young man felt he had made the right choice but it can be quite powerful knowing that your words gave someone the confidence to do something. I hope that in some small way I gave someone some confidence that night. 

There is a prologue to this event. I had decided to travel down by train, mainly because I don't like driving alone at night in strange cities. I was assured that I would be back at the station in time to catch the last train home. Unfortunately the event overran slightly (not me - honest!) and my lift still had to pack some things up so a very kind lady offered me a lift to the station. Unfortunately, she was parked a little further away than we had bargained for and despite taking my shoes off so I could trot along more easily I missed the train by a couple of minutes. This meant I had to take the next train to Salisbury followed by a very expensive taxi ride home. So much for my attempt to be more green!