The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is engaged in the ethnic monitoring of its membership to ensure equal treatment of all pharmacists, the Society’s Director of Professional Standards (Mrs Sue Sharpe) confirmed on January 21.
Mrs Sharpe was responding to comments made on the previous day by the chairman of the Society’s Statutory Committee (Mr Gary Flather, QC) as he stepped down from his duties after 10 years as chairman. Mr Flather said that it had worried him for some years that a disproportionate number of Asian pharmacists were appearing before the committee, and it was important to ask why. Asians made up approximately 20 per cent of the Society’s register, he said, but they “racked up” about 70 per cent of the complaints considered by the committee.
Mr Flather emphasised that he had never come across any racism in the Society, but he suggested that the Society had been reluctant to look at the problem. Until statistics were available from the Society’s exercise in racial monitoring, no informed decisions could be made.
Mrs Sharpe said that the profession had for many years included high numbers of pharmacists from ethnic minorities. A commitment to ensure equal treatment of all pharmacists was reflected in the Society’s decision in 1997 to undertake ethnic monitoring. Implementation of the decision had had to await the installation of new computer systems, but ethnic monitoring had begun in 1999 and the Society continued to give it active attention.
Mrs Sharpe added that the Society was satisfied that it had measures in place to minimise racial or other bias. All cases examined by the Council for possible referral to the Statutory Committee were considered anonymously to eliminate risk of bias. The identities of pharmacists were not known until a decision had been taken. In addition, the chairman of the Statutory Committee had power in any individual case to decide whether or not to order an inquiry.
Mr Flather’s wife, Baroness Flather, is of Asian origin. She was the first ethnic minority woman to serve on a borough council in the United Kingdom and she has also served on the Commission for Racial Equality. She was created a life peer in 1990.