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‘Pharmacy needs to move to being actively anti-racist’

"We have systems that lead to biased racial outcomes"

Community pharmacy must fight the systemic racism in the sector instead of staying silent, Mohammed Hussain says

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, people across pharmacy have been speaking out against racial injustice in the sector. Mohammed Hussain, a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) fellow, says in C+D’s latest podcast that more needs to be done.

“We need to move from our current position to actively being anti-racist,” says Mr Hussain. “It's not enough to just not be racist, we need to do much more than that. And we need to have a conscious and purposeful agenda to act against bias.

“It’s important to recognize that we’re not just talking about any one individual. I don’t think we have many racist individuals within pharmacy. What I do think we have is a structure and systems that lead to biased racial outcomes."

Listen to the podcast to hear from Mr Hussain, who is also NHS Digital senior clinical lead, on:

  • The need for addressing our discomfort in talking about race
  • The lack of black representation in leadership positions in pharmacy
  • Racial disparity in pay gap, fitness-to-practise reports and pre-registration pass rates
  • Improving COVID-19 risk assessments of BAME individuals
  • How the RPS should be "less defensive" when handling BAME issues

The views expressed in the podcast represent Mr Hussain's alone.

In response to Mr Hussain’s comments, the RPS told C+D: “We’re on a journey with our inclusion and diversity work to create positive change in our profession. We welcome all points of view to inform this work and recognise the importance of RPS taking meaningful action in this area.”

You can listen to the podcast below. Alternatively, subscribe to C+D's podcasts on iTunes or by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred Android podcast app.

Has your pharmacy conducted risk assessments?

Carrie Bennett,

Let's do away with the term BAME for a start.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

There's already a movement towards that - it's a divisive term because it's basically saying you are either white or not white, but it was a very woke term for a while. I think the liberal leftie luvvies use it most but to me it just seems a very patronising thing to call someone.

Locum Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

In some pharmacis it does not matter how qualified, efficient and professional as soon as you walk in the staffs' reaction is racist and you can feel it. 

I find when I worked in a multiple recently. I found that to be the case in some of their pharmacies 

 You have to be non white to experience this. Sometimes it is subtle. I have colleagues who I have heard have been treated awfully by this company as a general

*This article has been moderated to comply with C+D's community principles*

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Sadly, even as a white person, I know this to be true because I've heard it from the other side, when I walk in as a white locum. I think it shows a distinct lack of intelligence in the staff concerned and it is very sad that they feel able to spout racist views to me because they assume I will feel the same way.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The trouble with being 'actively anti-racist' is that you then become pro-actively racist by default. If there are two candidates for a job and you pick the black one to balance out your staff, that is still racism, just in an opposite direction. A true lack of racism is when a persons skin colour is utterly irrelevant and it is the person and their abilities which is seen. Given that a very high proportion of pharmacists are non-white I think we are very far down this particular road.  Maybe there are not as many black people in higher positions but could that, just possibly, be because they don't want those positions? I have no desire to become the director of anything. I get enough crap as a normal pharmacist thanks. I don't want any more.

Also, the concept of BAME is very flawed. A black person is as different from an Asian person as they are from a white person, and also just as much the same. To lump all 'non-whites' into one group is both demeaning and self defeating. It highlights differences, not similarities. How about we celebrate how much ALIKE all races are, rather than how different they all are?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I suddenly feel very right-on! I saw on the news this morning that there is a backlash starting in Coventry against the term BAME for exactly the reasons I have given.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Half of your post to me is to slave the collective guilty concience of the past(if not the present). The other half makes perfect sense.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Which bits are which?

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

I make no apology for stating that the above is the biggest load of garbage I have had the misfortune to read in a long time. What is this ??? BLM meets Pharmacy ?? Are we expected to take a knee everytime a person comes into the shop ?? The ability to carry out a job well and efficiently is nothing to do with skin colour but everything to do with intellectual ability and willingness to learn the skills to actually carry out the job, and then do it. Some can and some can't, it is that simple.  Please stop peddling this cultural marxist trash - there is way too much of it about, and especially so in a country as welcoming and tolerant as the UK.

*This comment has been moderated to comply with C+D's community principles*

Agreed. The issues various companies have dealing with people from the bame community who have many issues with their language difficulties and cultural requirements are suddenly deemed as racist. Many pharmacy people i've worked with who were genuinely not suitable to work as pharmacy staff could not be dealt with because they were bame is shocking. I even had to report a pharmacist who was openly sexist towards our female staff, was taking stock and i doubted he was even qualified. When i spoke to head office they said to leave it because it wouldn't be worth the hassle. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You sound smugly part of the problem. Even I can sense it never mind my black colleagues.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

As are you, dear. Emphasising diferences to enhance feelings of being left behind or discriminated against

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

'What is this ??? BLM meets Pharmacy ?? Are we expected to take a knee everytime a coloured person comes into the shop ??'

No, Mr Hussain hasn't suggested anything of the sort. If you actually listen to what he has to say, you will realise he is suggesting being more proactive and looking at systemic causes. A positive step forward in my opinion.

You could make a start by not using the term 'coloured person', which many people find highly offensive.

Everyone is offended by everything these days. 

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

Yawn !

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Mark, it was the correct term to use when I was growing up, obviously many years ago before you point that out. My question being, will 'people of colour' or BAME be seen the same way in 40 years? Personally I find it rather uncomfortable when I see POC written. I am white, but I would not like to be written as WP as shorthand for white person. Maybe POC is more used or accepted in America?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The woke world at the moment seems to be totally fixated with division. Everyone has to have their particular pigeonhole, whether it be BAME, POC, LGBTQ+ (when did the word 'queer' become acceptable? When I was a kid it most definitely wasn't). I cannot for the life of me understand why this is soooo important. Why highlight the divisions in society? To talk of a BAME 'community' implies that every minority person lives together in some sort of enclave or bubble and feeds into the racist narrative. There shouldn't be a BAME community or an LGBT community. There should just be one community for EVERYONE. (incidentally, I want my pigeonhole to be the 'Slapheaded chubby middle-aged bloke' one.)

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You're p[robably quite happy for the things to remain as they are as you're a beneficiary whether you realise it or not. 

If you were around during the times of slavery you would have probably complained about all the slave uprisings/rebellions. You would have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

Oh do be quiet. Stop the virtue signalling

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Everyone living in this country (indeed all of the Western world) is a beneficiary, Benie, even you. I'm sure you have a pension. Are you certain every company your pension is invested in has no colonial links? Any which started pre-war most certainly will. Our lifestyle is based on riches acquired by this country during colonial times so to single me out as being a beneficiary of this is wrong. I realise it. Do you?

You miss the point of my post - everything nowadays seems to be feeding the racist - pointing out the DIFFERENCES. I'm not saying that British society has not been enriched by influences from other cultures - of course it has, from Roman times - but the time now is right to celebrate the fact that we AREN'T different, surely?

Just FYI, I think the slave trade is one of the biggest stains on the human race in history (one of so many - my own species is genuinely despicable), and I would not have complained. I would have supported, as I support the push against racism now. I just feel that dividing everyone up into groups feeds racism rather than defeating it. It's time for inclusivity not divisiveness.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

And also, it was not exclusively blacks who were enslaved

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Quite right. Unfortunately, slavery seems to be ingrained into the human race. Most slaves traded were 'spoils of war'. Romans used their defeated enemies as slaves, most of the African slaves were sold by fellow Africans. This bit seems to be conveniently forgotten when pulling down statues.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Mark - what is the difference between calling someone a 'coloured person' as opposed to 'a person of colour' which I hear all the time. This is a genuine question, I'm not trying to be facetious or offensive in any way (both terms are pretty daft anyway because unless you are totally transparent, you are coloured. I'm a sort of manky yellowy pink, others are brown. Both are colours.)

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

It not for me, to explain to you, why it is offensive. Other than to say that many people are offended by the term. In order to explain why, you will need to listen to those people who have been personally affected by the term. It has many historical connotations and was used in offensive signs often seen in windows of shops/accomodation years ago.

A cursory google search will bring you many informative articles from those affected by the term. Its offence is common knowledge as far as I am concerned and therefore ignorant if used.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

All I'm asking is what the difference is between 'coloured person' and 'person of colour' - I genuinely don't get what it is - to me, both mean exactly the same thing and should be equally offensive or inoffensive. I know about the 'no dogs, no Irish, no coloureds' signs and in Boston (the Lincolnshire one) I have seen a sign in a pub run by Poles saying 'No English' which I found offensive, but the law backed me on that one. In a lot of these cases, I would say it isn't the term itself which is offensive, it is the WAY it is used. I have heard, in a cricket commentary from Australia, Ian Chappell referring to the Pakistan cricket team using the 'P' word but he didn't mean any offense because I don't think it has the same racial connotations in Australia. To him it was the same as calling someone from Afghanistan an Afghan or someone from Khazakstan a Khazak, which is what they call themselves. It's the way it is used over here as an offensive term that makes it offensive. I get that calling someone 'coloured' is the same as saying 'not white' but so is 'person of colour' or BAME.

****addendum**** - I've just looked up the origin of the name of Pakistan (because I realised that Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan etc are all based on tribal names) and it means 'Land of the Pure' in Urdu. There's a certain irony to the fact then, that racists using the 'p' word are actually calling someone pure!

Rita Pharm, Administration & Support

I listened to it all and he picks out disparities but I feel offers no real solutions except collecting more data and maybe different shaped covid face masks for different ethnicities (about 24 minutes in)

There are differences in prereg pass rates and board memberships etc.. he says they need "equal" representation and presumably wants "equal" prereg pass rates and gphc fitness to practice hearings too, but HOW to go about it?

People cant be picked as board members based on race because that would be.. racist? He didnt say that should happen thankfully but then HOW do you fix it? HOW do you get to equal pass rates for different ethnicities? HOW do you get an equal amount of fitness to practice hearings for all ethnicities?

He seems to want to see more "black" people on these boards but this is just based on skin colour.. not all black people are the same, there are many countries with high populations but theyre all different with different cultures. A "black" person could have roots anywhere in the world

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Rita, I don't know the man and have nothing against him, but after 30 yrs in pharmacy you learn all pharmacy politicians and representatives, council members, board members, whatever the new term is these days, they all ask many many questions and point many many things out, but never ever have any solutions. I'm still waiting for the old RPSGB to reply to my email regarding the introduction of SOPs and how are locums supposed to read them all, from 2009! I even mentioned it to the Inspector, who said how unfortunate not to receive a reply, then quickly glossed over my query onto something else!

Adeel Sarwar, Community pharmacist

Excellent points raised Mohammed.
I have to say whilst far from perfect and acknowledging there is a lot more work that needs doing, pharmacy has come a long way and has come further than other professions in levelling the playing field.

We must all continue to call out these issues as they occur.

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