Mr McKeagney told C+D earlier this month (July 16) that Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland (Pharmacy Forum NI) “absolutely condemns any discrimination, be that racial, sectarian, disability, sexual orientation or in any other way,” in light of pharmacist Nkele Mushapho recently speaking out about her experience of racism in Northern Ireland – including from patients in the pharmacy.
“The percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pharmacists in Northern Ireland is very small, so while I'm sure there are cases out there, we weren't hearing very much about them until recently,” Mr McKeagney said.
Part of the problem, he said, is that people may not always be aware of causing offence. “I don't think it's always malicious. Sometimes I think people do things inadvertently, and it's only when you point out to them the nature of what they're doing, and how what they're doing could be seen as racist [that they realise],” he added.
As people spend a lot of time at work, they need to “feel safe and be content there”, he said, adding that combatting racism is largely “about getting people to be more mindful and more sensitive to [other] people's needs”.
To help its members, Pharmacy Forum NI has set up a working group led by vice chairman Eamon O'Donnell to “explore with BAME colleagues how much racism is going on that we perhaps don't see” and to assess “how we can make a tangible difference”, Mr McKeagney said.
Pharmacy Forum NI will “seek to make sure that their [BAME members’] voices are included as an integral part of that working group”, he added.
The professional leadership body is “very keen” to ensure it has a formal policy outlining its “abhorrence at any form of racism,” Mr McKeagney said.
The initial piece of work the group will produce will be a guidance document, outlining different ways to “embrace and actively promote inclusion and diversity” in pharmacies in Northern Ireland.
C+D is hosting a webinar on August 6 to discuss how the sector can combat racism in pharmacies.