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Home  »   LGBT+AbilityMember NetworksNational Association of Women PharmacistsBAME   »   PDA EDI Networks respond to former Secretary of State’s letter about diversity and inclusion

PDA EDI Networks respond to former Secretary of State’s letter about diversity and inclusion

The former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay wrote to NHS organisations in England asking them to cease hiring dedicated equality and diversity staff.

Fri 15th December 2023 The PDA

The four EDI Networks have sent a joint letter in response to the former minister’s direction to NHS Employers, suggesting they cut their spending on diversity, equality and inclusion, addressed to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Ms Victoria Atkins.

Read the letter signed on behalf of all PDA EDI Networks below.

Dear Ms Atkins,

The PDA opposes all forms of discrimination. We support individuals or groups of members who are victims of unequal treatment due to protected characteristics and proactively work to promote the full and equal inclusion of all people in the pharmacy profession, as patients and in wider society.

The PDA’s oldest equality group is 118 years old, founded because women pharmacists were not treated equally over a century ago, and still needed today because despite much progress and the profession now being majority female, we have still not yet created a world where sexism is eradicated.

Today our National Association of Women Pharmacists exists alongside our BAME Pharmacists Network, LGBT+ Pharmacists Network and the Ability Network for those pharmacists with disabilities. Our four networks formally collaborate via our Equalities Council, enabling learning to be shared between networks and a joined up approach to intersectional issues. As the representative body for employed and locum pharmacists the PDA is playing its part regarding this important aspect of the workplace environment. We are concerned, however, to read the letter from Mr Barclay of 19 October to NHS employers which seems to suggest that they should somehow reduce their attention on the subject.

We agree that ensuring equality and inclusion for all and managing diversity should be part of every manager’s role, however there are significant economies of scale to having in-house subject matter experts able to monitor performance and share best practice across organisational structures. Similarly, external national DEI organisations focused on a specific characteristic will have an even deeper understanding, knowledge, and level of expertise on their area of concern far beyond that available from central government, let alone within a specific NHS employer or in the experience of a departmental manager.

Knowledge and competency matter in workplaces. Just as we understand that our professional training makes us the right people to manage medicines and provide pharmaceutical care, so we respect those who have expertise in other areas. We also understand the value of teamwork, and recognise that colleagues working to improve our workforce conditions can also indirectly contribute to the quality of care and wider organisational performance.

Mr Barclay’s suggested cost is the main concern with regard to NHS spending on improving diversity, equality and inclusion. We would respectfully remind you there is a difference between cost and value. To meet target staffing levels, and thereby manage workload pressure experienced by our members, the NHS needs to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Please consider the cost of not enabling all those individuals to perform to their fullest, not attracting them in the first place or losing them to another employer because they will not stay due to the environment. Consider the management time required to resolve grievances relating to unequal treatment, and in some cases the cost of management time, legal fees and compensation when a discriminatory act, which could have been prevented from occurring, leads ultimately to legal action by the victim. Improving DEI can add value by helping save such costs.

The PDA is also a member of the Inequalities in Health Alliance, and we know that there are significant inequalities in some aspects of NHS care which need to be addressed. Improving DEI for the workforce makes the organisation better informed to tackle that critical aspect of patient care. A workforce that better understands and reflects, across all levels and disciplines, the population it serves is also going to face less barriers to engagement with patients and their community.

We agree with Mr Barclay that diversity and inclusion should be a part of everyone’s role, but we think this is as well as, not instead of, having discrete dedicated roles within organisations. We hope that as the new Health Secretary, you will withdraw the direction to NHS Employers.

Your sincerely,

Ability Network for pharmacists with disabilities
BAME Pharmacists Network
LGBT+ Pharmacists Network
National Association of Women Pharmacists


Read the letter from former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, to the chairs of England’s integrated care boards (ICBs) on 19 October, which prompted the networks’ response, below.

Dear colleague,

On 24 March 2023, I wrote to the Department of Health and Social Care’s agencies and partner organisations setting out how we should ensure good value for money when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion (DE&I) across the health family.

This included explaining that these issues are everyone’s responsibility and should be addressed through normal management processes rather than using external providers or dedicated roles within organisations.

In the Department, we have been focused on delivering efficiency so that we can move resources from the back office to the frontline. This has included reducing headcount (FTE) by one in six, and we have no standalone diversity roles. Much of this efficiency has been delivered by applying a recruitment freeze. Other parts of the health family, including NHS England, are also making progress on this.

I am therefore concerned that many local NHS organisations are actively recruiting into dedicated DE&I roles. Current live adverts include jobs with salaries of up to £96,376, which is above the basic full-time pay for a newly promoted consultant. There are also examples of continued use of subscriptions to external organisations on DE&I issues. I do not consider that this represents value for money, even more so at a time when budgets are under pressure as we work to tackle the backlog left by the pandemic.

I believe that we should devolve more to integrated care systems. Therefore, as you are responsible for managing a significant proportion of the NHS budget at a local level, I wanted to ensure that you are taking a similar approach to the Department to secure value for money.

I would appreciate it if you could work with NHS organisations in your area to review with a view to ceasing recruitment into standalone DE&I roles and external subscriptions to redirect these resources into frontline patient care. Should organisations wish to take a different path then they should be willing to justify in public why such roles add more value than additional medical or healthcare staff.

I also subscribe to the definition of diversity set out in the Civil Service D&I Strategy (available on GOV.UK) and believe that this is the approach we should adopt in delivering inclusion for all our people.

Yours ever,

Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care


Elsy Gomez Campos, Immediate Past President of the PDA BAME Network said, “The PDA BAME Network firmly opposes the proposal to cease the recruitment of EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) professionals. Organisations require specialised expertise to formulate and execute initiatives that effectively address existing inequalities. EDI specialists are uniquely qualified to craft policies that are free from discrimination and to champion the interests of underrepresented groups within organisations. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that diversity and equity are not only discussed but actively integrated into the organisational framework, fostering a more inclusive and fair workplace environment.”

Liam Volk, President of the PDA LGBT+ Network said, “The NHS was founded with equality in mind, and consistent evidence has shown workplaces that encourage diversity and inclusion have happier, healthier and more productive staff. As such it’s very disappointing that the former Health Secretary is scapegoating equalities and diversity in a desperate attempt to deflect from the responsibility his party has had as an architect of the decline of our health service.”

Ayah Abbass, President of the PDA NAWP Network said, “I firmly believe if we want a safe space in the workplace diversity and equality should be put into place. A diverse workplace means empowerment. If I see someone like myself, an Arab, Muslim woman in a leadership role then I’m more likely to believe that I can do it.” 


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