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BAME Pharmacists’ Network – February 2021

Welcome to the latest PDA BAME Pharmacists' Network Update. To date, the BAME committee boasts a membership of over 700, and our numbers continue to grow.

Wed 24th February 2021 The PDA

The committee was elected in December 2020, comprising of Elsy Gomez Campos, Sherifat Muhammad Kamal and Dorothy Egede. The elected officers met formally for the first time on Thursday 4 February to discuss some of the pressing issues BAME pharmacists are currently facing. They also set out what their goals and aspirations for the BAME members will be for the duration of their term. Meet the committee.

Also in this issue:

  • The Pharmacist with a Stethoscope
  • “Chinese Whispers” – a reflection on language and turning down old phrases
  • Inclusivity and racism in pharmacy
  • COVID-19 Vaccines and the BAME communities
  • PDA does more than just indemnify pharmacists – Why I joined the PDA
  • Teaching online during a pandemic – a lecturer’s perspective

We encourage you to share this mailing with colleagues that would like to read it. 

The Pharmacist with a Stethoscope

By Hala Jawad, Community Pharmacist, PDA Divisional Rep &
PDA Regional Committee Member

To me, when a woman from a minority background holds a senior position in an organisation, it demonstrates that the company holds equality and diversity as fundamental core values.

Not too long ago, the idea of a pharmacist with a stethoscope would have been viewed as a fanciful idea. However, with our increasing clinical involvement outside of a hospital environment, it has become a more realistic representation of the profession.

From the early days of the Medicines Use Review (MURs) to the more recent PQS initiatives, community pharmacy has continued to evolve to ensure that we are an integral, valued part of the healthcare team.

The PDA first published ‘Wider than Medicines – a pharmacy perspective on creating an integrated health system’ in 2018 and will continue to develop a roadmap for the future of pharmacy post pandemic.

In the past, much of our knowledge and skills were under-utilised, so the recent trend towards more clinical involvement is not only overdue but welcomed by many. The new Initial Education and Training Standards published by the GPhC will include Independent Prescribing (IP) from day one of the MPharm course, which means future pharmacists will join the register with IP skills.

The important contribution that pharmacists and pharmacy can make to the healthcare sector, by putting patients at the heart of what we do, has been demonstrated by the profession’s outstanding response to the pandemic and now our contributions to the vaccine programme. It also highlights our professional ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

From the start, the PDA has been there for all of us, supporting the needs of individual pharmacists, pharmacy students, pre-regs and those provisionally registered. The PDA developed the only independent trade union for pharmacists and were the first organisations to raise the issues of BAME pharmacists in relation to the pandemic; quickly producing a workplace risk assessment toolkit for pharmacy. One just has to look at the resources available to us, including the new indemnity cover for those who are involved in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, to know that they support us on so many levels.

Every pharmacist should be a member of the PDA as no other organisation represents us so comprehensively.

Learn more

“Chinese Whispers” – a reflection on language and turning down old phrases

By Andrew Cheung, Hospital Pharmacist
With the advent of “Woke Culture”, I have become increasingly more aware of old terms and phrases that we commonly use that may no longer be acceptable.

Firstly, to give context, this all came about during a multidisciplinary staff meeting where I heard of an unfortunate breakdown in communication being described as “Chinese Whispers.” Had this been two or three years ago I probably wouldn’t even have batted a single eyelid. However, hearing this phrase now has made me feel slightly uncomfortable. So much so that I had to look up its formal meaning, and research the origin of the phrase, which would allow me to determine its appropriateness and whether it is now contraindicated.

According to Collin’s dictionary “Chinese Whispers” is:

  1. A game in which a message is passed on, in a whisper, by each of a number of people, so that the final version of the message is often radically changed from the original. – A game many of us have played as children, myself included.
  2. Any situation where information is passed on in turn by a number of people, often becoming distorted in the process – as used in the context of the MDT meeting to describe a breakdown in communication.

After a quick google search, I found that the phrase stems from a sinophobic idea from the 1800s that Chinese people spoke in a way that was deliberately unintelligible. It associates the Chinese language with “confusion” and “incomprehensibility”. I was really disturbed by this and it has really made me rethink my own choice of idioms and phrases, and where our common phrases originate.

But how do we balance this with freedom of speech? Our fears of being prosecuted by the political-correctness police, which evidently I have now become a part of. Do we now have to constantly tread on eggshells? Reform the English language? Or can we just be more considerate and choose our words more wisely. Perhaps someone will produce a charter of inappropriate phrases with their approved and politically correct alternatives for the workplace. Be it during a casual conversation with colleagues or in a professional context, I believe that the time for self-reflecting on our choice of language and phrases to be especially important.

Phrases similar to “Chinese Whispers” with equally racist undertones are “double dutch” or “it’s all greek to me.” Another phrase with a disturbing and dark origin that I recently became aware of is “the rule of thumb.” But I will leave the googling to you, and let you decide if its use is still indicated.

Get involved

  • Find a similar article about words of racists here.
  • If you have a similar story, please post it on social media using the hashtag #PDAbame, tagging the PDA into the post. Alternatively, you can write to the BAME Network about your experience by emailing:

Inclusivity and racism in Pharmacy

By Michael Ghebregziabher, fourth-year MPharm Student
Our study on inclusivity and racism in pharmacy consisted of participants from different areas of pharmacy practice and from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This included 72% BAME and 28% non-BAME, also, 21% hospital, 21% community, 14% academia, 7% mental health, 3% GP and 31% students. Participants reported a variety of experiences of racism in their pharmacy careers. This included institutional racism, subtle racism, discrimination, and prejudice and was reported to be due to both ignorance and maliciousness.

Participants reported concern regarding the recruitment processes, career progression and recognition as well as a ‘glass ceiling’ of racial bias.

Participants felt recruitment should be based on skills, rather than race, nationality or background. However, participants reported concerns with fairness, particularly in disciplinary panels, which were felt to unfairly penalise pharmacy professionals who were non-white and British.

A key recommendation to reduce racism in pharmacy was for employers to build safe physical spaces and safe social environments for raising concerns when staff experience discrimination of any sort. The employer could work with BAME staff on reference sheets that detail what discrimination looks like, such as to educate and hold to account staff from non-BAME backgrounds. Employers could also provide unconscious bias training to staff to help raise awareness on inequality and diversity issues and identify racist behaviours and trends.

Learn more

COVID-19 Vaccines and the BAME communities

By Sherifat Muhammad Kamal Clinical Pharmacist (Locum)
Historically black people have not always been listened to, or treated equally in terms of medical care, so there is a lack of trust sometimes, making COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and its uptake by the BAME community a great concern.

General Practitioners in England warn about misinformation within the BAME community, making patients reluctant to come forward for vaccinations and some missing appointments. The misleading information about using Africans as human guinea pigs for the vaccines, false claims of the vaccine’s contents containing microchips, aborted foetus, altering of genetic codes, some come with concerns over ingredients forbidden under religious beliefs like traces of pork not eaten by Muslims, beef or cows considered sacred by Hindus.

However, none of these is true as the body that approves vaccines has made it clear that the Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines do not contain any components of animal origin. The fact is, vaccines have proven to be one effective solution to the world’s solution to health pandemics to date and COVID-19 vaccines is not an exception.

The COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency, educational conversations, seminars and Q&A sessions are being held by experts, professionals like myself and virologists at different organisational settings to educate communities on COVID-19 vaccines. In conjunction with CCGs and NHS Trusts, religious organisations such as churches and mosques are also joining the conversation and fighting the mysticism and lies surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. For instance, a mosque in Birmingham was recently opened as a COVID-19 vaccination centre. This sends a strong message to the BAME community.

Learn more

  • You can read more about how religious leaders are encouraging the BAME community with the vaccine uptake here.

PDA does more than just indemnify pharmacists – Why I joined the PDA

By Anjlee Shah, Community Pharmacist 
I became a member of the PDA as soon as I registered as a pharmacist, for indemnity insurance at first but I have remained a member ever since.

Over the years, I have seen how much the PDA do for pharmacists and how much they have achieved working with, and for, members during the pandemic. I was inspired to get involved when I found out that the PDA offers so much more than just the important professional indemnity cover.

The work that the PDA do is highly commendable to protect and support all pharmacists. Currently, I am standing in the Regional Committee election in Wales & Western England to represent community pharmacists as I want to represent the views of others and truly align my activity with the PDA ethos. The results of the election will be published on the PDA website on 5 March 2021.

Earlier this month, the PDA announced that they have secured trade union recognition for pharmacists at LloydPharmacy. Now pharmacists who work for Lloyds will have much more of a say in their working lives.

It was awesome to learn that union recognition was achieved after months of negotiations and the agreement was announced at the start of Heart Unions Week! As a Lloyds pharmacist, I welcomed the news, and I feel much more reassured that my pharmacist colleagues will have trade union support. I’m proud of LloydsPharmacy for acknowledging the PDA’s work and coming to a voluntary recognition agreement. I also look forward to stepping forward to be considered as a PDA Union representative in LloydsPharmacy to ensure that my colleagues will have a strong voice when they have any employment issues or concerns.

The PDA’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Networks are also very important, especially as I am an LGBT ally and a member of the BAME Network. It is so fundamental that we all have adequate representation in our profession. The networks allow us to reach out to our peers, network and support each other.

I encourage all pharmacists to join the PDA (if you’ve not done so already) and sign up to the networks of your choice!

Thank you PDA for looking out for all pharmacists, I especially look forward to our work with Lloyds pharmacists – it will be a better future with you!

Learn more 

Get involved

Teaching online during a pandemic – a lecturer’s perspective

By Nahim Khan, Academia and GP Practice Pharmacist, PDA Regional Committee Member
We have had to adapt to delivering teaching online, which was a seismic change. I have always enjoyed teaching – a big reason for this is the interaction you get with learners in person. You also gain an understanding of how everyone is getting on with the subject.

With online teaching, this has become more difficult, and for that reason has been less enjoyable. The feeling you get with the atmosphere is lost. How you would teach has had to change, for example, I am no longer able to use a physical board for writing and group work has become more disconnected.

One example is using the BNF (British National Formulary) – normally I would answer questions that students have using the hardcopy of the BNF, or using the app alongside with them. But this has not been possible with online learning.

I have seen some talk negatively about working from home during the pandemic, whilst others have had to go to work. I can understand their frustrations, as during the week I also still travel to work. However, working this way, away from colleagues has been difficult, my circumstances mean spending a lot of time alone. Learners may also be going through a difficult time and may have similar issues with spending time at home and being in practice.

I also understand that there are colleagues working from home who may have caring responsibilities, not enough space or an unsuitable workstation or home working environment. I have also found that teaching online means sitting down and looking at a computer for an extended period of time. It is also easier to become distracted during online meetings due to background noises or a poor Wi-Fi connection interrupting the flow of what you are discussing.

Teaching the next cohort of health professionals and increasing the skills of knowledge of the exiting workforce still needs to continue regardless of the pandemic. Doing this remotely is the safest way possible during this time but it does not change its importance.

Although it has been hard, there are a lot of positives to consider. For example, this pandemic has enabled me to use technology in new ways thus helping me to become more proficient in this area. It has also allowed me to be more creative in the way I structure and deliver teaching sessions. The future may well bring more of a blended approach, mixing traditional classrooms with online sessions, this is great preparation for when these times arise.





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