Can the new Joint National Plan for Inclusive Pharmacy Practice really keep the promises it makes, asks Sasa Jankovic.
This major new initiative aims to draw on the benefits of diversity to offer better healthcare provision from pharmacy. The national plan outlines training and resources to enable the pharmacy sector to work together to stamp out racism in the workplace and use inclusive practice in patient care to address the country’s health inequalities.
In recognition of the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on healthcare staff and communities from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the plan also focuses on addressing vaccine hesitancy.
“Developing culturally sensitive healthcare is key to preventing ill-health, increasing vaccine uptake and protection from serious disease, and managing long-term conditions that are of higher prevalence in BAME communities and which increase risk of being more adversely affected by Covid-19,” says England’s chief pharmacist Keith Ridge.
GPhC data shows that 44 per cent of pharmacists and 13 per cent of pharmacy technicians are from BAME backgrounds, which Ridge calls “an enormous source of strength” for the pharmacy professions, as “inclusive pharmacy practice will help us harness and appreciate more the benefits of our diversity”.
The plan’s timeline sets out actions for pharmacy professional leaders and their teams at all levels and in all care settings. These include developing their understanding of the benefits of diverse teams and culturally competent healthcare service delivery, and ensuring the voices of colleagues from BAME backgrounds are fairly represented and equally heard in decision-making forums.
In the first phase of the plan, which will continue to be developed through subsequent national roundtable meetings, pharmacy professionals are asked to educate themselves about equality, diversity and inclusion and “embrace authentic allyship”, while “empowering” staff to take part in “inclusive networks and groups”.
This will involve training on “culturally competent healthcare” with an emphasis on the Covid-19 vaccine, using a “menu of accredited training and resources” to be developed by professional leadership bodies and Health Education England by the summer.
Calling for all pharmacy professionals to “join with us to deliver the plan over the next four months as a priority”, Keith Ridge says by the next roundtable in August his team will have collected data about and explored BAME representation in pharmacy leadership in NHSE&I, and created a set of metrics to measure and monitor progress that align with existing and developing NHS policy.
Sandra Gidley for the RPS says that, alongside its existing inclusion and diversity strategy for pharmacy, together with its gender and ethnicity pay gaps reports and action plans, the RPS will add reporting on disability and publish an action plan this year.
In addition, the Society has reviewed its recruitment processes and will publish inclusion and diversity data for all elected and appointed positions across boards and committees, reviewed against the make-up of its membership and the wider profession. “We can, and will, do better,” she says.
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK) will also collate data on representation across its membership during April and May and on the association’s leadership following a restructure of the executive committee in May. APTUK president Liz Fidler is encouraging all members to complete the survey.
While all of this vital work is a move in the right direction, is it enough? Mohammed Hussain, RPS Fellow and senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, says that while he is pleased to see inclusion is still on the agenda, “we need to move beyond soft guidance to harder rules if we are serious about the change we wish to see”.
“The plan cannot simply be a document created just to sit there. People at the top have got to lead by example and whatever comes out of the roundtable in August is what we work on next,” says Mahendra Patel, RPS England board member and Pharmacy Research Champion NIHR (Yorks & Humber), who was part of the advisory group. “We have to hear the needs of everybody to make this work and keep listening to them.”
Developing culturally sensitive healthcare is key to preventing ill-health.... Inclusive pharmacy practice will help harness and appreciate more the benefits of pharmacy's diversity