Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Islamophobia in healthcare – creating change

By Sannah Khan, Pharmacy team leader and surgical pharmacist

Muslims make up around a fifth of the pharmacy profession and yet there are still issues to be addressed concerning Islamophobia. When considering the issue, we must include both healthcare professionals and Muslim patients under our care across healthcare settings.

Dress code in surgery

Working in a surgical environment, be that in theatres or on the elective surgery ward, I was struck by how the dress code was not inclusive and considerate of the requirements of a Muslim woman. I was grateful for the research BIMA undertook with regards to bare-below-the-elbows requirements, and theatre-friendly clothing items such as hijabs. The fact that this research is published and widely available means that female Muslim healthcare professionals will not be overlooked, and we will be able to follow our ambitions in the sector, without compromising our adherence to Islamic laws.

Leadership is vital

A survey of Muslim healthcare professionals revealed that nine out of ten did not know a Muslim in a position of leadership, and two-thirds stated that they could not identify mentors to discuss career progression. This, whilst disappointing, presents so many opportunities to us in the pharmacy profession – we can work together to raise awareness amongst our peers and existing leaders to give deserving Muslim colleagues their chance to shine.

Helping students build confidence

Pharmacy Foundations, an independent training provider, has proven to be a trailblazer in bringing the results of the GPhC investigation into differential attainment of the registration exam into practice. In collaboration with the UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA), Pharmacy Foundations offers a number of students access to their entire curriculum, a programme worth over £1000. Seeing their positive impact, it may be imperative to build a similar scheme to aid Muslim pharmacists with coaching, theory, qualifications and the confidence to progress into positions of leadership and management.

Dietary requirements

Despite all the excellent work BIMA and its members, volunteers and associated partners have undergone, it seems vital to highlight that this is only the beginning. Not only are healthcare professionals overlooked or not considered in the writing of policies, but there is a significant portion of guidance which does not take into account dietary requirements for patients’ religious beliefs.

A huge proportion of medical and surgical patients are administered low molecular-weight heparins to prevent thrombosis, but how many healthcare practitioners are aware that they are derived from porcine and Muslim patients are not given the option to choose for themselves if they would be happy to receive this? Or be offered an alternative such as Fondaparinux?

In primary care, how many Muslim patients are offered an alternative to gelatine-coated capsules? As patients place a tremendous amount of trust in healthcare professionals, we need to ensure we’re educated to ask questions about preference and choice so we can offer patients gelatine-free alternatives.

The paediatric influenza nasal spray vaccine contains small traces of pork gelatine which means that this is not a suitable formulation for a proportion of Muslim children. This is an ideal opportunity for pharmacists in all sectors to ensure they’re being inclusive as there is an alternative injected flu vaccine which is suitable. But those in positions of clinical governance and the industry should Muslims are considered and included in policies, protocols and processes that directly affect their health.

Fulfilling our potential

It is sometimes difficult to see how far we have come, but Muslim healthcare professionals across the sectors have so much potential to ensure that we and our Muslim patients are not overlooked.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.


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