Celebrating International Women's Day 2022

In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the team around me and pay tribute to women in leadership roles. As I also approach the half way point into my Clinical Fellowship as Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow at NHS LPP, it is important for me to delve into the work the Medicines Optimisation and Pharmacy Procurement (MOPP) team at NHS LPP do to help address women’s health inequalities.

Let’s start with some statistics. We know that women account for approximately 62% of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registrants. This is reflected in the NHS LPP MOPP team which is made up of mostly women. I spoke to Matthew Harrison, Principal Pharmacist for Medicines Optimisation on his thoughts about working as part of a female dominated team:

“I would like to say how fantastic it is to work with and for women in positions of senior leadership. I am proud to be part of a team who empowers women to do great things, leading on innovative and pioneering projects to improve the lives of our patients. The women in our team bring years of experience and an unrivalled expertise, and they encourage the development of me and each of us in the team whilst achieving excellent results. I want to praise the team and celebrate their achievements.”

When looking through a leadership lens, I spoke to Jas Khambh, Clinical Director and Chief Pharmacist at NHS LPP to get her views on the importance of having strong female role models and any changes she has observed:

“Being a leader in a highly focused procurement/financial organisation, which historically lacked female representation, requires emotional resilience and strength. Over the years, and having worked at NHS LPP previously and then returning a few years later, I have seen a change in dynamics and have observed more women come into procurement - three out of the six in our executive team are now women. Furthermore, working in a medicines optimisation role in a finance dominated organisation involves leadership, negotiation and compassionate management skills.”

Last year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) published a position statement noting women’s health issues are often surrounded by stigma which prevents some women from openly discussing health conditions. The position statement also mentioned that this stigma leads to “tolerance of abnormal symptoms, reducing quality of life and possible late detection of some cancers”1. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society further stated that pharmacists can help reduce health inequalities for women through a range of public health services. They can also support those from economically deprived communities. 

Here at NHS LPP, the Medicines Optimisation and Pharmacy Procurement team aims to reduce health inequalities by using data driven care to highlight disparities. I spoke to Rebecca Fisher, our AHP prescribing lead who said:

“I love being part of a pharmacy team as an AHP with an opportunity to advocate for women’s health and inequalities. I am curious about how women’s health impacts prescribing across the lifespan. Adequacy of breastfeeding support impacts a myriad of infant and mother health outcomes, including rates of cow’s milk protein allergy. Pregnancy and raising children has an impact on weight gain and having the resources to exercise has a huge impact on mood and metabolic health. The acceptance of diversity of body size and concept of weight stigma (and healthcare avoidance) is not widely acknowledged in the UK, despite it being more than 40 years since the publishing of ‘Fat is a feminist issue’.

"Our understanding of the prescribing of weight gaining medications in post-menopausal women is limited; do we recognise the impact of polypharmacy and give women informed choice, can we have prescribing metrics to understand the scale of the problem? The culture of dieting as the answer is strong, despite the heartbreaking rates of eating disorders and disordered eating in adolescent girls, which I see weekly in my clinical role. There is so much more we can do to reduce women’s health inequalities, analysing prescribing in this area is a great place to start and a huge shout out to the team for strong female role models.”

It is paramount that healthcare professionals continue to reduce disparities women face when accessing healthcare as well as career progression. Here at NHS LPP, the MOPP team will continue to embed any strategies which include a focus on reducing health inequalities in women where possible.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, I will finish this blog with a final quote: "Empowered women help to empower other women to help them to achieve their goals."

Reference:

1. Royal Pharmaceutical Society - Position Statement on Women’s Health (July 2021)

Kalveer Flora, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow, NHS LPP

This is the first in a series of blogs from NHS LPP’s new Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow, Kalveer Flora. Look out for her next blog in the coming months.

08/03/2022