Inclusive pharmacy practice will help us harness and appreciate more the benefits of our diversity

The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly reminded us of the differences and inequalities in healthcare provision in our communities and we’ve seen the disproportionate affect COVID-19 has had on people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

We know from General Pharmaceutical Council data that 44% of pharmacists and 13% of pharmacy technicians are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds which is an enormous source of strength for our professions.

But the distressing impact of health inequalities on people’s lives, which has been amplified since the onset of COVID-19, demonstrates we have a long way to go as professionals to genuinely understand, celebrate and make the most of the benefits of our diversity for improved and better healthcare provision.

I’m also convinced that, as part of our professional responsibilities, pharmacy professionals at all levels and in all care settings should proactively ensure there is no tolerance of racism and racial discrimination in the workplace.

That’s why today, with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK and our partners across the pharmacy sector, I’m publishing a Joint National Plan for Inclusive Pharmacy Practice – which will enable us to not only learn together but also act together.

Our aim is to work collaboratively to develop and embed inclusive pharmacy professional practice into everyday care for patients and members of the public, in order to support the prevention of ill-health and address health inequalities within our diverse communities.

It is particularly pressing and urgent because as professionals we need to address the significant concerns brought to light through the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the vaccine hesitancy we witness in our day-to-day work and lives, as well as collaboratively tackling wider health inequalities.

I want to pay tribute to the advisory group of colleagues which has developed the plan in conjunction with a wide range of partners, maintaining focus during these very difficult months – this group from across national organisations organised our first national roundtable meeting in August 2020 and co-produced the subsequent publication in September of a Joint National Statement of Principles on Inclusive Pharmacy Professional Practice.

The resulting plan – which will continue to be developed through subsequent national roundtable meetings – is all the better for it and I’m very grateful to everyone who has been involved and contributed their valuable time and expertise.

Now we’re asking all pharmacy professionals to join with us to deliver the plan over the next four months as a priority.

The plan sets out actions for pharmacy professional leaders and their teams at all levels and in all care settings to consider, including developing their understanding of the benefits of diverse teams and culturally competent healthcare service delivery; and ensuring the voices of colleagues from  Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are fairly represented and equally heard in decision-making forums.

For my team this will also include a piece of work to collect data about and explore Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation in pharmacy leadership in NHS England and NHS Improvement and we will report back on at the next roundtable. We will also be developing a set of metrics so we can measure and monitor progress and these will align with existing and developing NHS policy.

The plan includes collaborative projects to develop a ‘menu’ of accredited training and resources for pharmacy professionals on culturally competent healthcare service delivery; and a resource pack to help pharmacy teams to learn how to use local population health data to help them engage with diverse communities to design culturally competent approaches to  health inequalities. We will share these new resources, best practice case studies and key webinar dates in due course and continue to work with our partners to develop plans for implementation and evaluation.

We recognise that some organisations and teams will be ahead in terms of having arrangements in place to meet the plan’s first ambitions. Where this is the case, the ask is to push ahead further and encourage others by sharing your progress. For others, this plan will be a first step and will require development to reach what’s now needed. A key message is to use it to help you move along the route towards cultural competence and inclusive practice with purpose and belief, celebrating success with us as you move forward.

It couldn’t be more important as we know that developing culturally sensitive healthcare is key to preventing ill-health, increasing vaccine uptake and protection from serious disease, and managing long-term conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma, that are of higher prevalence in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and which increase risk of being more adversely affected by COVID-19.

We’d like pharmacy professionals across all sectors of healthcare to engage with and implement this plan and to make it a priority in whatever way works for you and your team, so becoming more inclusive becomes part of everyday practice.

Please join with us to make this a success – I believe we can really make a difference.

The Plan has been published on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK websites and there is a joint covering letter.

You are invited to sign up to the Inclusive Pharmacy Practice community on FutureNHS to keep in touch with the national work and share your progress.

If anyone wishes to attend the next national Roundtable, please contact:

This initiative is a united response to two Public Health England reports – Beyond the data and Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 – confirming that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on healthcare staff and communities from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Useful resources to address vaccine hesitancy

Dr Keith Ridge

Dr Keith Ridge is Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England where he is head of profession for the pharmacy professions and the principal advisor on pharmacy and medicines use.

His role supports the Department of Health, broader Government and Health Education England.

Keith is the Senior Responsible Officer for reducing inappropriate prescribing of antimicrobial in the UK AMR Strategy, and leads on issues such as medicines optimisation, digital medicines, pharmacy educational reform and transforming pharmacy practice in line with the NHS’s Five Year Forward View.

He is a visiting professor at the Imperial College Medical School.