The time is now – inclusive professional practice and why it matters

This Black History Month, PDA Head of Policy Alima Batchelor reflects on how far we have come and how far we still have to go, to improve Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the pharmacy sector.

Wed 21st October 2020 The PDA

The prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd in America and some of the responses this appeared to provoke in certain quarters have caused me to reflect on how far we have come and yet how far there still is to go in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Keith Ridge together with over 30 pharmacy stakeholder groups issued a statement about a commitment to embedding inclusive professional practice in pharmacy. Sadly one of my first thoughts was how many people might be rolling their eyes and immediately seeing this initiative as somehow pandering to over-sensitive BAME people with a chip on their shoulders and an obsession with “victimhood”.

So – below are just a few of the reasons why this was such an important statement and why it really is not true that “everyone gets treated the same” or (even worse) “white people are the ones beginning to be discriminated against these days”.

I read an article about Paul Stephenson today. He was a pioneer – I suppose a little bit like a Bristolian Rosa Parks. In 1964 he walked into a pub in Bristol and ordered half a pint. He was served, but when the pub manager saw him, he told Stephenson to get out: “We don’t want you black people in here – you are a nuisance”. Paul Stephenson refused to leave and, rather predictably, the police were called and eight officers turned up. Stephenson had already got a name as an activist due to his role as a leader of the Bristol Bus Boycott (worth looking up if you do not know about it) which may have been a reason for deploying eight officers to deal with one man. Anyway, after the police turned up, Stephenson was arrested, put in the cells for some hours and eventually taken to court. All eight officers stated that Stephenson had been “aggressive” whilst otherwise giving varying accounts of what had happened. Fortunately, a witness who was present at the time was able to corroborate Stephenson’s account and the case was thrown out.

This happened in my lifetime and led to the first Race Relations Act in 1965 which banned racial discrimination in public places and made promoting racial hatred a crime. In fact, I had been in school for three years before it became illegal to refuse to rent or sell your house to someone or refuse to employ someone simply due to the colour of their skin (Race Relations Act 1968).

More recently, I can recall it being common knowledge in the early 1980s that (despite the law of the land) certain nightclubs in Birmingham operated a colour bar. This manifested itself most starkly when mixed groups of friends turned up to enter a club and the white people were allowed to enter but the non-whites were turned away. I have had personal experience of this – it didn’t matter how smartly you were dressed – you weren’t getting in. As I recall (at Aston University at least), this led to the publication of the nightclubs involved and calls from the students’ union to boycott them.

As recently as 1992 an article in The Spectator magazine carried the headline: ‘Would you rather your house burnt down, or that your daughter married a black man?’.  Fast forward to today – it’s great that there is legislative protection designed to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race or religion and that in some sectors employment opportunities have improved, however when you look at what is happening in practice, it is clear that there is so much more that needs to be done. A study in 2019 by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found that black Britons and those of south Asian origin face “shocking” discrimination in the labour market at levels unchanged since the late 1960s – that is a pretty sobering thought.

Recent articles in the Health Service Journal have covered concerns regarding bullying and harassment of BAME staff in NHS organisations and the lack of executive BME members on NHS Trust boards. The PDA headquarters are based in Birmingham – a city where the five major NHS trusts have not a single non-white executive director and two of the trusts have not had a non-white executive director for the last 20 years despite approximately 40% of the local population coming from BME backgrounds.

It has been saddening to see some of the responses to attempts to address the discrimination which still exists in our society. What is even sadder and indeed worrying is that some of those responses have come from healthcare professionals or NHS workers including pharmacists – one only has to look at the comment sections under some articles in health service and pharmaceutical press publications. If people genuinely feel that way about their non-white fellow citizens, then what kind of ‘care’ will they actually be providing to non-white patients? However small the minority of healthcare professionals carrying these views – the potential result is a significant variation in the quality of healthcare provided, influenced by the skin colour of the recipient and this cannot be right.

So, I am really pleased that the PDA was able to participate in the recent round table discussion attended by over 30 stakeholder organisations on developing inclusive professional practice within pharmacy. I hope this really will be a time for change; when the pharmacy profession can act as an exemplar showing how we provide excellent care to ALL, irrespective of their heritage and that we take steps to tailor the care we provide to their needs.

It would be wonderful if we as a profession could make a stand, setting an example of how inclusive professional practice should look.

Alima Batchelor, PDA Head of Policy

Get involved

The PDA has four member Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) networks:

  • The National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP)
  • The Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Pharmacists’ Network (BAME Network)
  • The Disabled Pharmacists’ Network (Ability Network)
  • The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pharmacists’ Network (LGBT Network)

For more information, to join a network, or if you would like to become an ally of one of the EDI networks, click here.

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