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BAME Pharmacists’ Network – June 2021

Welcome to this month's BAME Pharmacists' Network Update.

Wed 9th June 2021 The PDA

This edition includes an update on the Covid-19 delta variant, personal accounts of pharmacists working during the pandemic and an evaluation of the Sewell Report which offers a non-progressive approach to racism in the UK.

In this issue:

  • Covid 19-variants, Covid-19 vaccines and the role of pharmacists 
  • Leading an acute pharmacy team during the pandemic
  • My Faith, the driving force behind my profession 
  • Discrimination in General Practice 
  • Exclusive to us, Inclusive of all – the Black Pharmacist Initiative
  • Disappointing Sewell Report offers a non-progressive approach to racism in the UK

We encourage you to share this mailing with like-minded colleagues. 

Covid-19 variants, Covid-19 vaccines and the role of pharmacists

By Sherifat Muhammad Kamal, PDA BAME Vice-President

What we have found out about the new Covid-19 delta variant is that it is more transmittable and mutates over time, sparking major public concern. Public Health England has released a new study on 22 May 2021 showing for the first time that two doses of the Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant which was first identified in India.

Pharmacists are centrally placed within the healthcare system to not only advise patients on the risks of these new variants and the benefits of taking the vaccine but also to play a vital role in helping in the delivering of the vaccination roll-out, especially in hard-to-reach communities.

Pharmacists engage with patients by counselling them, providing a guide to the vaccine administration, giving medicine reviews and checking patients’ medical history to ensure there are no adverse side effects to taking the vaccine and helping to debunk the myths around the vaccine by properly informing their communities.

Pharmacists are better placed to advise and educate our patients about the vaccines and are readily available whenever called upon. Pharmacists are intertwined within the health workforce delivery system which includes Hospital Trusts, GP practices, PCNs, CCGs and care homes, meaning we are uniquely positioned to continue to support the vaccination rollout programme multilaterally.

As Public Health England and other health experts continue to monitor the data of variants emerging, pharmacists continue to gain the trust of their communities by being on the ground and having those face-to-face conversations with patients and thus demonstrating that we are putting our patients first and helping to protect our community.

Learn more

  • Find out about the PHE study on the new Covid-19 delta variant here.

Leading an acute pharmacy team during the pandemic 

By Uzo Ibechukwu, Chief Pharmacist at Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

Being a pharmacist feels trickier after each Covid-19 wave. I often look back at weeks 4-12 in my new role as Chief Pharmacist, my most senior post to date as the period which defined my outlook: At the time, I was in recovery after a heart scare linked to stress and/or Covid. Before this, I always saw myself as strong, resilient etc. However, throughout the initial 4 weeks in my new role I gained a new perspective.

Firstly, the pandemic gave me an opportunity to spend an invaluable 2-month bonding time with my youngest child.

I was also able to reflect on those first 4 weeks and to think: ‘Actually, I’m not that important! The place won’t burn down without me’, and also to fully appreciate the importance of having a work/life balance.

These two reflections now shape my entire approach to leadership. Work to live, encourage all around you to do the same and trust your team. The latter two were especially important in maintaining morale and preventing staff burnout and how they also enable the headspace to plan for the future. I believe it is important to set the example that while work and what we do is important, we have as much of a duty to self-care in order to be there when life is back to normal. (My most used quote by far is ‘play the long game’). In turn, self-care translates into a more compassionate, open workplace and thus reduces the risk of errors and improves patient care.

The vaccination programme has been the most uplifting experience to be a part of and has played a huge part in restoring staff morale. In the past 5 months, I believe consistent and open communication has kept the team focused on the here and now but also on what our ultimate future goals are.

As alluded to at the start, the period after each wave has been the trickiest: how to re-motivate when the adrenaline rush wears off. I firmly believe during this period, regular and open communication among staff and a willingness to address my own concerns and knowledge gaps – have mitigated drops in motivation and morale. Time will tell…

Learn more

  • Join the BAME Network here.

My faith, the driving force behind my profession 

By Dr Kasim Ramzan who shares his experiences of vaccinating patients in the community

I am a GP in Newport and a Muslim. For me, being a Muslim is a fundamental part of why I became a doctor and includes the principles I uphold when I practice medicine. One quote from the Holy Quran always stuck with me growing up: “If anyone saves a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.” Quran 5:32. As a Muslim, we spend our lives trying to attain good deeds to balance against any sin we may commit all in the hope that when judgement befalls us we are rewarded by our Maker.

During the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw deaths rise, unfortunately, in the Black and Ethnic Minority Communities. I watched the news and saw my NHS colleagues dying on the frontline, with again, BAME colleagues being most affected. Rather than being seen as victims of this dangerous disease, I saw our communities being vilified on social media. “They are not following the rules; They are spreading this disease.”

This was upsetting as I know how much the Black and Ethnic Minority NHS colleagues contribute to the NHS. I saw mosques close their doors in the Holy Month of Ramadhan. Ramadhan: a month where we not only fast but also spend a significant amount of time in mosques praying together as a community and self-reflecting. For us, fasting is not a hardship but an exciting month, where we make time to break our fast with our fellow Muslims. However, as a community, we knew that Ramadhan in lockdown and closing the mosques was a small sacrifice to make to protect not only our own communities but also our non-muslim brothers and sisters that we live with.Furthermore, the rules of managing a society in a pandemic can be found within our Prophetic traditions known as Hadiths. These are the sayings and teachings of our Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Some of these are: “Cleanliness is half of faith” (Sahih Muslim) and “If you hear of a plague in a land, do not enter therein. If it befalls a land and you are in it, then do not go out of it” (Sahih Bukhari/Sahih Muslim).

Again, I found my religious beliefs and my role as a doctor well entwined. As chance would have it, fellow Muslim doctors reached out and we founded Muslim Doctors Cymru. All of us volunteering our time to fight against Covid misinformation and improve vaccine uptake. Our fundamental principle is to save lives. We created infographics and myth-buster videos to counter the misinformation that was spreading throughout social media platforms. For the first time in Wales, doctors from varying cultures speaking various languages, came together to deliver webinars in multiple languages to answer the questions and fears that were making local communities hesitant to have the vaccine. Our approach was ‘local doctors’ that you knew, you grew up with, you saw at your local mosques providing you with information rather than getting information from unknown sources via social media.

We have successfully engaged with local health boards and held almost 10 mosque vaccination hubs and community hubs. We are only going to defeat Covid-19 through unity. Therefore, these hubs were for ALL COMMUNITIES to attend and get vaccinated. Our British society is multicultural and that is something we should all be proud of. However, what I do affects others and what others do affects me. That’s why it is important that we ensure the correct message gets out to everyone, and all communities have access to vaccinations.

I am proud that my colleagues in Muslim Doctors Cymru and I have managed to achieve this whilst also working full time on the NHS frontline in various roles. However, evenings and weekends that we have sacrificed will all be worth it even if we have only helped save one life. For us, it will truly be like we have saved the whole of humanity.

Learn more

  • To support our #GetVaccinated campaign click here.

Discrimination in General Practice 

By Jonathan Appleton, Communications Manager, Humberside LMCs and Dr Zoe Norris, Medical Director at Humberside LMCs

Our new report which was conducted in April of this year has highlighted discrimination faced by staff and patients from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds in general practice and calls for a zero-tolerance approach to tackle racism in all its forms.

The report, Racism and Discrimination – the experience of primary care professionals in the Humberside region, is based on a survey of clinical staff, managers, and administrators working in general practice in the Humber region.

The survey is part of a strategy, supported by the area’s four CCGs, to address racial inequalities and barriers, and provide support for all those staff from ethnic minority backgrounds working in primary care.

In total, 238 people responded to our survey. Responses highlighted respondents’ experiences of discrimination in areas including training, working patterns, and complaints.

For example, 22% of Black and Minority Ethnic respondents reported that their ability to train in their careers was affected by racism or discrimination.

One respondent commented: “Comments were made throughout my career that I was an inferior doctor…rather than seeing the positives – awareness of different cultures, languages and attitudes. My background was seen as a negative.”

Dr Zoe Norris, Medical Director at Humberside LMCs who led on compiling the report, said: “The report is not an easy read, and starkly illustrates the challenges our colleagues and patients are encountering every day due to racism and discrimination.

It’s based on the lived experience of both clinical and non-clinical staff working in primary care across the Humber region, and we’re incredibly grateful to all the staff who shared what are clearly very difficult experiences with us.

Despite the problems highlighted we hope that, through shining a light on these issues, this will be the beginning of a conversation between all of us working in primary care to tackle discrimination.”

Learn more

Get involved

  • Become a better ally here.

Exclusive to us, Inclusive of all – the Black Pharmacist Initiative  

By the Black Pharmacist Initiative  

The Black Pharmacist Initiative was founded in July 2020 to combat the issues of discrimination and the disparities that black pharmacy students faced within the UK. We recognised that there was an academic attainment gap seen between black pharmacy students and their counterparts.

As reported in a 2020 Pharmaceutical Journal article, ‘New national figures reveal an unacceptable awarding gap in favour of white pharmacy students of up to 15 percentage points for some ethnicities.’ As an organisation we were troubled by these findings and wanted to bring more awareness to this bleak reality and make changes towards a better future for black pharmacy students. The organisation is based at Medway School of Pharmacy and was founded by Osariemen Egharevba-Buckman.

Our mantra is ‘Exclusive to us, Inclusive of all’. This means whilst we aim to help black pharmacy students, we welcome the support of all individuals from every ethnic background and work together to create change. In the last year, we have held different events to empower black pharmacy students in their academics and professional endeavours from ‘How to Maximise your time as a Pharmacy Student’ to ‘The Secrets to Secure a Hospital Placement’. We have worked on bringing awareness to different struggles that black pharmacy students face through our inclusion and diversity workshops and also through awareness campaigns.

We have invited speakers from the PDA and NAWP to speak at our events on topics surrounding gender disparities that arise amongst women although in a female-majority profession. We are now working within the schools of pharmacy to help make the students’ voices be heard.

The race report has highlighted some issues that have been the black communities’ reality for years, racial biases have played a major role in the disparities that we face and the report has done a great job in downplaying this reality. This has given us even more reason to continue to push with our endeavours to make sure the black voice is heard.

We have created a network for black pharmacy students across the country through our mentoring scheme and educational workshops, providing a community for black pharmacy students to express their views and help one another to thrive within the profession.

Learn more

Follow us on our social media to learn more:

Instagram @theblackpharmacistinitative
Twitter @theblackpharm
LinkedIn @Black Pharmacist Initiative
YouTube @Black Pharmacist Initiative

Disappointing Sewell Report offers a non-progressive approach to racism in the UK

By Manuella Asso, PDA Organising Assistant and BAME Network Coordinator

The PDA is saddened and disappointed at the findings of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. This report diminishes and overlooks the experiences of millions of Black and Asian minority workers whose day-to-day lives paint a different story than that documented in this report.

The report focuses on 5 key main areas Employment, Education, Health, Crime and Policing and Institutional Racism.

What are the main findings of the report?

  • Education: Children from ethnic-minority communities did as well or better than white pupils in compulsory education, with black Caribbean pupils being the only group to perform less well.
  • Employment: This success in education has “transformed British society over the last 50 years into one offering far greater opportunities for all”.
  • The pay gap between all ethnic minorities and the white majority population had shrunk to 2.3% overall and was barely significant for employees under the age of 30.
  • Diversity has increased in major professions such as law and medicine. This achievement is hailed such a success that the report recommends getting rid of unconscious bias training.
  • Crime and Policing: There was more of a focus on policing where the report widely encourages currently used police tactics including stop and search.
  • The report encourages the diversification of police forces to better represent their communities.
  • Health: Suggested the creation of Office for Health Disparities to better consider race impacts health outcomes and life expectancy.
  • Institutional Racism: The report stated that other things such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have a greater impact than race; stating it is an overused idea especially in areas where there is no evidence to support it. They reported there are some examples of institutional racism but encourages campaigners to prove them before making claims.

President of the PDA BAME Committee, Elsy Gomez Campos said: “As I saw it, the message was not only ill-informed but was also non-progressive and definitely stereotyping of some ethnic minority groups. If the authors of the report were seeking to anger us, they did a marvellous job.

As a UK black citizen, I see the evidence of institutionalised racism every day. It presents the disproportionate number of non-white NHS staff that have died during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I see the evidence when the data shows that black women are more likely to die during childbirth than white pregnant women. The evidence on the criminal system where black people in England and Wales are more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers. And what about the fact that white working-class boys with less educational qualifications have better job prospects of employment and social status than people of an ethnic minority? I could go on citing evidence of institutionalised racism that sees non-white citizens, especially blacks, driven into a life of poverty and denied opportunities.

Racial discrimination is a public health issue and the report seems to ignore the overwhelming evidence that speaks volumes about its consequences and how it manifests in organisations and society. For that reason, now more than ever, we need to be more vocal and more courageous about denouncing acts of racial discrimination and the social injustice that is attached to it. We need to make the evidence count by speaking up, actively being anti-racists and by being better allies of those facing racial discrimination.”

PDA BAME Network Coodinator, Manuella Asso stated: “Considering this is the seventh major report in 4 years all of which have highlighted institutional discrepancies for ethnic minority groups in the past, I am astounded that our government has concluded that structural racism does not exist in our society. The report gave glowing reviews to our education system citing that ethnic minority pupils perform similarly or even better than their white counterparts.

However the Guardian reported that figures actually paint a starkly contrasting picture with over 60,000 racial incidents in schools in the past five years. Additionally, while the report praised our policing measures, it failed to provide answers or even acknowledge reports that show that black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

I cannot deny the experiences of those responsible for writing this report, they may well have seen significant positive changes in their society. However, I cannot ignore the reality we currently face. Instead of giving ethnic minority groups hope for a better and fairer future, this report casts uncertainty and fear of what lies ahead by underplaying and almost denying the prejudice we face every day.”

Learn more

Get Involved 

  • Join the BAME Network here.






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