Ability Newsletter – November 2020

Welcome to the latest Ability Network newsletter - the quarterly mailing that keeps you up-to-date on news, events and issues that relate to disabled pharmacists.

Wed 18th November 2020 The PDA

In this issue:

  • UK Disabled History Month 2020
  • How Multiple Sclerosis has impacted on my pharmacy career
  • Discrimination and the Equality Act 2010
  • COVID-19 and the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme
  • The stigmatisation of medications used for the management of disabilities
  • International Day of Persons with Disabilities
  • Facts on disability in the UK
  • Getting in touch

UK Disability History Month 2020

Today marks the start of UK Disability History Month (UKDHM), which runs every year from 18 November – 20 December. This annual event focuses on the history of the struggle for equality and human rights for disabled people. It is a chance to raise awareness of the history of inequalities disabled people have faced, and those they still face today.

This year’s theme is ‘Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go?’. Disabled people often face barriers to using local spaces because many buildings, events and day to day processes are still inaccessible.

There are also barriers for people with learning disabilities, if the information isn’t clear, or written in formats that aren’t accessible to all types of learning disabilities.For more information about UK Disability History Month, click here.

We would love to hear from you

If you are planning to do something to celebrate UK Disability History Month, we would love to hear from you. You can send us your pictures and stories by emailing them to: ability@the-pda.org. Alternatively, shout about it on social media using the hashtag #PDAability and don’t forget to also tag us in the post!

You can also follow the PDA on social media by clicking any of the below links.

How Multiple Sclerosis has impacted on my pharmacy career

By Nalwenga Mutambo, Pharmacist and PDA Ability Network member

My name is Nalwenga Mutambo. I am a Pharmacist; I am a mother and I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Before I was diagnosed, I knew nothing about MS – it’s not something I learned about at university. It’s not something that I routinely came across during my practice; not like diabetes or asthma. It never even crossed my mind that this could happen to me, but it did.

My first attack happened during my second year working in hospital pharmacy; my career was going in the direction I always envisioned. I had successfully moved from community to hospital, and I was working towards gaining my post graduate diploma. It all started with slight tingling in my feet, so trivial, it was a symptom I could just dismiss. I also started to feel tired, all the time, but it was understandable – I was stressed. As well as working in a hospital pharmacy, I was working as a locum, so I was used to feeling run down, but this was a different kind of tired. No matter how much I slept it wouldn’t go away; this fatigue was in my muscles, I woke up every day feeling like I had just run a marathon. It was in my head, I couldn’t think, I was forgetting words, I had a bad memory and I would lose my train of thought (they call this cog fog). I decided to reduce the amount of locum shifts I was doing, as I was worried about making an error.

I then started to get burning sensations in my legs, vertigo, loss of sensation in my feet, problems concentrating, poor hand-eye co-ordination, poor motor skills (at one point I couldn’t hold a pen…not great when your work is 70% paper based) and problems with my balance. All of this whilst working on a busy acute admissions ward. In hindsight, I can say it was one of the hardest points of my life. Whilst new symptoms started appearing, I was desperate to get answers from the doctors. I have seen my share of GPs and nurse practitioners; had numerous blood tests and been told to try running because I was stressed, but still no one had an answer. Finally (after 7 months) I was referred to a neurologist who after more blood tests and one lumber puncture was able to tell me “You have multiple sclerosis.” Although devastated by the diagnosis, I was happy to have some confirmation that it wasn’t all in my head, my symptoms have a name.

Now I am more knowledgeable about the condition. I am on medication (Tysabri in case you wondered), trying to manage my remaining symptoms with diet (a huge topic in itself), and exercise. I am not where I was before my symptoms started (I still can’t run after my daughter), but I am better than before I started treatment, and I now know being diagnosed with MS doesn’t mean I will end up in a wheelchair. I don’t work in hospital pharmacy or as a locum anymore, but I still work (not in a patient-centered role but I still use my knowledge). I believe it has made me a better Pharmacist because I have lived through some of the battles we may all be fighting and I know it gets better. I also know that fear comes from the unknown, and the more we talk about these battles, the less scary they are, as we know we aren’t facing them alone.


Discrimination and the Equality Act 2010

By Richard Hutton, Locum/Consultant Pharmacist and PDA Regional Official (North)
It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of one of the nine protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010. These are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil partnership
  • Pregnancy
  • Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sexual orientation.
The Act goes on to describe various forms of unlawful discrimination, some of which applies to all the protected characteristics (direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation) and some of which only apply to a specific protected characteristic, such as failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee.

In simple terms, unlawful discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably by their employer because of a protected characteristic. It is very important to realise that you don’t need to have a protected characteristic to be discriminated against.

You can be discriminated against because of someone else’s protected characteristic, for example, that of a friend, spouse, partner or anyone with whom you associate. An example of this could be not employing a mother because her child is disabled. This is known as associative discrimination. Associative discrimination does not apply to all protected characteristics, for example, it does not cover marriage and civil partnerships nor pregnancy and maternity.

A wide definition of direct discrimination also includes discrimination by perception. Perceptive discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably because others believe they have a protected characteristic when in reality, they do not. An example of this could be an employer rejecting a job application from a white woman whom it wrongly thinks is black because the applicant has an African-sounding name.

Click below to read about an employment tribunal case in community pharmacy which included a claim of direct discrimination by way of associated disability.


COVID-19 and the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme

By Jayne Love, PDA Organiser and Lead on Equalities
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard scheme is an initiative designed to act as a discreet sign that the wearer has a hidden disability and that they may require additional assistance while out in public.

The scheme was first launched in 2016 at Gatwick Airport and by 2019 had been successfully introduced to several major UK airports, supermarkets, railway stations and sports venues. The lanyards are beginning to be recognised at international airports, cinemas, shopping centres and several NHS Trusts.

The lanyards have become extremely popular during the COVID-19 pandemic for those who are exempt from wearing face masks, as well as for people who have difficulty maintaining a social distance or need help navigating queues or one-way systems.

The types of hidden disabilities that are eligible for a sunflower lanyard include:

  • asthma and COPD;
  • autism and Asperger’s;
  • dementia;
  • learning disabilities;
  • mental health conditions;
  • mobility problems (e.g arthritis, MS, ME, chronic illness);
  • visual or hearing impairments.

If staff notice that you are wearing a lanyard, they can offer you help but will not know what your individual disability and needs are, so just let them know what they can do. The support that can be provided with a lanyard includes:

  • help with hard-to-reach products;
  • making others aware that a person may be struggling or have behavioural issues;
  • more time at the checkout;
  • help packing your bags;
  • speaking face-to-face to allow lip-reading;
  • using clear and easy-to-understand language.

Lanyards can be picked up at a participating venue for free. They are available to keep and you don’t need to provide proof of your disability. They can also be purchased online from the Hidden Disabilities website, along with newly available pin badges if you want an alternative to the lanyard.

Find out where the sunflower lanyard is recognised near where you live.

Get involved

The stigmatisation of medications used for the management of disabilities

By Leah Debenham, second-year pharmacy student and PDA Ability Network member

During one of my lectures in my first year of university studying pharmacy, we were covering amine chemistry and its applications, and a medication I was very familiar with came up – amphetamine. This is a substance (although in its prodrug form of Lisdexamfetamine) I have prescribed to me and have to take every morning for the management of my ADHD to allow me to function to the best of my ability. The issue was, when it came up, underneath its structure and name in red text was “dangerous stimulant”. This was surprising to me, as although amphetamine abuse is the 5th most common type of substance abuse in England, it is still a very important medication for the management of ADHD and without it, many including myself would not be able to function.

The issue here, is that within this particular lecture we also covered alkaloids, more specifically, the opioids, which again are important medicines which are used both therapeutically but also in cases of abuse. However, no similar warning followed the slides on opioids, with only mentions of their therapeutic uses.

I raised this then with the relevant staff member on my course and informed them of the issue, how it could be prevented in the future and the NICE guidelines as a reference which has allowed that material to be updated and the comment to be removed from the lecture slides.

Despite being a student, this is an issue I have noticed within our profession at a larger scale: the stigmatisation of medications used for the management of disabilities. This issue makes it harder for us to be fully open about our disabilities and is a barrier which will need to be overcome for us to be able to achieve better inclusion for me and for others in our profession so that we can be fully open about our disabilities.


International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By Daniela Rusalim, NAWP Vice-President, PDA Rep (East of England)
& PDA Ability Network member
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on 3rd December – let’s come together to raise awareness and promote the rights of people with disabilities.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that the observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be held on this day every year.

The aim of this international day is to:

  • promote an understanding of disability issues
  • mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities
  • seek to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Facts on disability in the UK

According to Government data, there are around 14 million people with disabilities in the UK, which is about 22% of the population. However, many people don’t know a disabled person and this is because people with disabilities are excluded from many parts of society.

Employment is an area where people with disabilities are unfairly excluded. There are an estimated 3.7 million people of working age (16-64) with disabilities in employment, which only represents an employment rate of 53% versus 82% for people with no disabilities. This results in a great waste of talent, has a detrimental effect on the economy and is preventing individuals with disabilities from reaching their full potential.

The GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council)’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Report 2019 shows that only 1% of pharmacists consider themselves to have a disability and 2% prefer not to disclose their disability status. The figures are lower than national averages and show that there is room for improvement; we all need to take action to remove barriers and ensure that pharmacist workplaces are more equal, diverse and inclusive.

This sentiment is accurately captured in the RPS (Royal Pharmaceutical Society)’s 2019 survey on inclusion and diversity where two-thirds (66%) of respondents said there were several career barriers in pharmacy, with the biggest being disability. Of the 839 respondents, 43% identified disability as the biggest barrier, and more than half of the respondents (56%) thought that more should be done to support pharmacists with disabilities.

So, let’s come together on 3rd December to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and to raise awareness, to promote the rights of pharmacists with disabilities and fight for a workplace that is more equal, diverse and inclusive.

Getting in touch 

As a pharmacist and PDA member working with a disability, if you feel that you have experienced discrimination at work or whilst studying then please contact the PDA as soon as possible for advice and support. There are processes and timelines for dealing with such matters and it is important to get early advice and guidance.

T:  0121 694 7000
E: enquiries@the-pda.org

Follow the Ability network on social media using the hashtag #PDAability

Please also feel free to share this mailing with a colleague that would like to read it. 

Pharmacists that are not yet members of the PDA can join here.






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