David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, visited the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in north-west London or Neasden Temple — the largest Hindu temple in the UK — to open the its ‘Health Hub’ on the first day of its Festival of Inspiration, which runs from 22–31 July 2022.
The Health Hub has been set up to provide health advice, information and free health screening to local people during the ten-day celebration period.
Each day, the hub will focus on different aspects of health, including dental care, mental health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and women’s health.
Other guests at the health hub included charities Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, and staff from the London Ambulance Service carried out resuscitation technique demonstrations.
Other demonstrations and talks have included healthy cooking and yoga.
Webb said it was “a privilege” to open the health hub.
“[It was] fantastic to see such dedication to community outreach and reducing health inequalities,” he said.
Mahendra Patel, pharmacy and inclusion and diversity lead for the ‘PRINCIPLE/PANORAMIC’ COVID-19 clinical trial and Webb’s professional adviser, who is also part of the temple’s health board, said: “We felt David Webb, as [chief pharmaceutical officer], would be a fitting choice to open the health hub during the opening ceremony celebrating the centenary birth year of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the guru and president of the BAPS branch of Hinduism, who died in 2016.
Patel added that the health hub is “a way of fostering stronger relationships as part of community outreach to reduce health inequalities.
“It fits with the inclusive pharmacy practice plan: it’s about knowing your community and giving services tailored to them.”
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s policy on health inequalities was drawn up in January 2023 following a presentation by Michael Marmot, director of the Institute for Health Equity, at the RPS annual conference in November 2022. The presentation highlighted the stark health inequalities across Britain.
While community pharmacies are most frequently located in areas of high deprivation, people living in these areas do not access the full range of services that are available. To mitigate this, the policy calls on pharmacies to not only think about the services it provides but also how it provides them by considering three actions:
- Deepening understanding of health inequalities
- This means developing an insight into the demographics of the population served by pharmacies using population health statistics and by engaging with patients directly through local community or faith groups.
- Understanding and improving pharmacy culture
- This calls on the whole pharmacy team to create a welcoming culture for all patients, empowering them to take an active role in their own care, and improving communication skills within the team and with patients.
- Improving structural barriers
- This calls for improving accessibility of patient information resources and incorporating health inequalities into pharmacy training and education to tackle wider barriers to care.
- This article was amended on 28 July 2022 to correct Pujya Yogvivekdas Swami’s job title