World Pharmacists’ Day an opportunity to highlight need for inclusive professional practice

This World Pharmacists’ Day I’m proud to share a joint national Statement of Principles on inclusive pharmacy professional practice for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in England.

World Pharmacists’ Day is a time when we pause to celebrate and be thankful for all that we have achieved as a profession – and the amazing work pharmacy teams do every day to enable people to stay healthy. This is especially the case this year, during a global pandemic, when the challenges we face as medicines professionals are critically important.

It is also a time when we should pause to consider more critically aspects of our practice across all settings which no longer properly support our societies.

This is what we have started to do in England, at the first National Roundtable on Inclusive Pharmacy Professional Practice, co-hosted by myself, Sandra Gidley and Liz Fidler, the Presidents of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, which we held on 5 August 2020.

It was a very productive session with around 60 pharmacy professionals from many national organisations and several patient representatives contributing their valuable insight and expertise. On that first day we agreed our aim: To work collaboratively to develop and embed inclusive pharmacy professional practice into everyday care for patients and members of the public, to support the prevention of ill-health and address health inequalities within our diverse communities.

Since then I’m proud to say Roundtable members and national pharmacy organisations have signed up to the joint statement of principles and we’re now collaboratively developing key priorities for action on which we will all work together, reporting back to a second Roundtable.

The Roundtable grew out of an urgent collective desire and need to address discrimination and inequalities in our profession, both within our own teams and when working with individuals and communities, and I’m very grateful to all those who joined and took part. We look forward to including more people and organisations in the next Roundtable so please get in touch if you wish to join and help to make a fair, inclusive and level professional and working environment for all to feel comfortable with.

Important driving factors in this initiative were the publication of two Public Health England reports – Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 and Beyond the data – confirming how COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on those of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) origin compared to white. These reports are now guiding three key NHS England and NHS Improvement programmes of work in which my team is closely involved: BAME Workforce and Communities; Health Inequalities in Primary Care; and the NHS Race and Health Observatory.

In June, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) also published a strategy to improve inclusion and diversity within the pharmacist profession across all the protected characteristics. In its strategy, the RPS outlined three priorities: to create a culture of belonging across the profession; to champion inclusive and authentic leadership; and to challenge inclusion and diversity barriers.

By next World Pharmacists’ Day, our intended aim is that all pharmacy professionals proactively support this statement of principles and have made it a part of everyday practice.

This will involve each of us making a radical shift in our professional practice both through educating ourselves and through demanding and enabling change within our teams and spheres of influence; not allowing the status quo, by which many of us benefit, to go unchallenged, and becoming an ally for colleagues.

Please read the Statement of Principles and work through what it means for you as a pharmacy professional today. The principles that it includes are:

  • We will strive towards pharmacy professionals being an exemplar among UK health professionals for equality, diversity, inclusion, fairness and belonging.
  • We will commit as professionals to value all people and to adopt and promote a culture of zero tolerance to all kinds of harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace.
  • We will proactively seek to learn and understand communities and cultures so that we can be more effective health and care practitioners and providers.
  • We will champion national and local policies and initiatives to address health and workforce inequalities.

I’m grateful to all those individuals and organisations for signing up so far and looking forward to the next steps of agreeing our key priorities for collaborative working to benefit citizens, professionals and communities and putting those into action.

The Statement of Principles has been published on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharcmacy Technicians in the UK websites.

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.