Trainee pharmacist wins trade union equality award after campaign for greater inclusivity in pharmacy education

Soh Xi Ken has been working with the General Pharmaceutical Council, Pharmacy Schools Council and individual universities to raise awareness of the need for inclusive education.

Soh Xi Ken, a trainee pharmacist and honorary secretary of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) LGBT+ Network, has received a Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Equality Award for his work to support LGBT+ pharmacists.

Soh was presented with the award by first minister Humza Yousaf, during a ceremony at the union’s annual congress, which was held in Dundee on 17 April 2023.

In a press release published on 29 April 2023, the PDA said that, as a founding member of the PDA LGBT+ Network, which launched in April 2020, Soh, along with other founding members, felt there was a “lack of LGBT+-specific guidance given to pharmacy students and that their unique and specific health needs were not being addressed as part of the pharmacy education that they received”.

The press release added that Soh has been working with the General Pharmaceutical Council, Pharmacy Schools Council and individual universities to raise awareness of the need for inclusive education.

He has also worked to help pharmacy schools embed LGBT+ inclusion within their teaching and learning.

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Soh said: “It is difficult to know what all schools of pharmacy have done, but near and dear to my heart: the University of Sunderland pushed for change, adding a lecture on transgender healthcare; including LGBTQ+ patients in exam questions unrelated to their queerness, and generally considering lecture material as inclusive as possible within quite a short amount of time.

“Other universities have made similar changes, such as Keele University and the University of Manchester. One of the things I’ve reflected on is that the desire for change was already in place but needed a push and spark from a different perspective. I am grateful that people are putting in the work to ensure pharmacy education is as inclusive as possible.”

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, said: “[Soh Xi Ken] thoroughly deserves his recognition as the recipient of the Equality Award for 2023.

“He is a driven and dedicated proponent of equality and has been a key component in the campaign to ask the UK Pharmacy Schools Council to include and be more inclusive of LGBT+ health issues in the curriculum.”

Health inequalities

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 updated on 9 May 2023 to clarify that Soh Xi Ken is a trainee pharmacist in the headline
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2023, Vol 310, No 7973;310(7973)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.183882

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in