Religious beliefs should not be a barrier to patients' needs

Religious beliefs should not be a barrier to patients' needs December 25, 2016

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has suggested a change to its guidelines that would place patients’ needs above the religious convictions of pharmacists – and in doing so has angered religious groups representing healthcare professionals.
According to this report, Christian and Muslim groups say that the “significant” shift suggested by the GPhC, the independent regulator for pharmacy in Great Britain, may jeopardise pharmacists’ identity, autonomy and ability to comfortably exercise professional judgement.
The move, if approved, would trigger a change in the pharmacist–patient relationship and a shift in favour of the needs of the patient.
In future, pharmacists may no longer be able to rely on referring a patient to another provider in cases where they feel their beliefs or personal values prevent them from offering the care the patient requires.
Cases where this could arise are typically the provision of emergency hormonal contraception, routine contraception and fertility medicines.
David Clapham, treasurer of the group Christians in Pharmacy, says:

People of faith are usually people of compassion … even if they cannot agree in all conscience to supply certain medications. He says the proposal may make “the position of some excellent professionals untenable” and deter people of faith from entering the profession.
This would be to the detriment of the profession, patients and pharmacy as a whole.

Hina Shahid, chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, says the GPhC’s proposal is well-intentioned but raises some important concerns.

Maintaining a culture of patient-centred care is undoubtedly the cornerstone of providing a safe and effective service to patients. However, we are concerned that certain proposed changes are very restrictive, such as removing the right of referral.
It is important to recognise that adhering to a high standard of professionalism in the workplace involves respecting the rights of health practitioners and accommodating values and principles that are important to them, religious or otherwise.
The guidance purports that patient-centred care and the autonomy and values of health practitioners are mutually exclusive, which they are not. Health practitioners will always strive to ensure patients’ needs are met and thus guidance that implies otherwise is not helpful nor in patients’ or health professionals’ best interests.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin, however, denies that the regulator is forcing pharmacists to act against their religious beliefs or personal values in the workplace.

It would be wrong of us to say that in delivering services you must act against your conscience. It’s not for us to make a statement like that.

Rudkin says the standard guidance was designed to support individuals and employers to be “proactive” and to make sure that there are no potential conflicts of interest between an individual’s religion, beliefs or values and patient-centred care. The same responsibility also falls with the employer, he notes.
The GPhC’s consultation document concedes:

These proposals will change the expectations placed on pharmacy professionals when their religion, personal values or beliefs might – in certain circumstances – impact on their ability to provide services. They will shift the balance in favour of the needs and rights of the person in their care.
We also want to highlight that, under the new proposals, a referral to another service provider might not be the right option, or enough, to ensure that person-centred care is not compromised. This is a significant change from the present position and it is vital that we hear from the public and the profession about this.

The GPhC adds:

In short, pharmacy professionals should not put themselves in a position where refusal to provide services would result in a person not receiving the care or advice they need, or breach human rights or equality legislation.

The regulator was prompted to propose the changes following a consultation on its revised professional standards that took place in April 2016.
The previous consultation revealed that most people who commented on the section around beliefs and values thought that professionals should not be able to refuse services because of their religion, personal values or beliefs, as this behaviour goes against the principle of providing person-centred care. This view was also backed by patients and customers who responded to the consultation, according to the GPhC.
Joy Wingfield, founder of the Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association and author of the book Pharmacy Ethics and Decision Making, says:

This consultation is an important shift in the balance of conscience between pharmacists or technicians and [the] service user. In short, the onus is now on the health professional to ensure that no service user is denied, hindered or criticised if their needs conflict with the conscience of individuals providing pharmacy services.

She said the shift is in line with guidance from other health regulators, such as the General Medical Council, and with recent case law.

Pharmacy professionals who anticipate that a request for a service may not be in line with their own religion, personal values or beliefs must be open to compromise; employers, colleagues and service users must be informed and pharmacy professionals may need to decline to take jobs or roles where such a conflict may arise.

She adds:

The guidance acknowledges the importance of complying with equalities, employment and NHS contractual law in such situations but stops short of giving legal advice on such issues.

Any proposed changes to the professional standards are scheduled for introduction in May 2017.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Broga

    When you read the words “people of faith” you are already being solicited into accepting that you are dealing with high minded and virtuous people. The next step is an implicit invitation that they should be treated with a tender appreciation of their religious feelings.. And the third step, and it is important to them, is that such is their virtue that any questioning or challenge is somehow indecent.
    The reality is that they are often self righteous bigots who, faced with any challenge, see themselves as victims. Their whining victimhood is a potent weapon against any who do not agree with them.
    Far from being regarded with special consideration they should be regarded with suspicion and their demands objectively analysed and subjected to severe scrutiny.

  • 1859

    ‘The guidance purports that patient-centred care and the autonomy and values of health practitioners are mutually exclusive, which they are not….’
    So a woman enters a pharmacy and asks for a morning-after pill [‘patient-centred care’] . The devout pharmacist who, for religious reasons etc., opposes birth control, refuses to serve the woman and tells her to try elsewhere [the pharmacist’s ‘autonomy and values’ are preserved]. These two situations ARE mutually exclusive and to argue that they are in some esoteric way compatible is bullshit.

  • John the Drunkard

    There actually EXISTS a group called ‘Christians in Pharmacy?’
    When was it founded, and does it actually have any membership beyond David Clapham himself?
    The refusal of professional service on the basis of religious exemption seems like a ‘thing’ invented in the last 20 years or so. You know, when Xtians began to suffer the intolerable oppression of knowing that they don’t get to dictate to the rest of the world.

  • Tony

    This is the Gay Wedding Cake Farce revisited. But in this case we are dealing with the Peoples Health versus nasty religious prohibition and the delicate sensibilities of pious bigoted pharmacists. To refuse to serve a customer on religious grounds is discriminatory and therefore illegal. And I suggest that anyone experiencing such bigotry in the dispensary should report the matter for censure of the offending pharmacist.

  • Paul

    I especially liked this it from the muslim woman idiot :
    “…..the rights of health practitioners and accommodating values and principles that are important to them, religious or otherwise.”
    No it fucking is not.
    You must, in a democratic country provide the medicines or else get a job that doesn’t put lives at risk because you are deranged and should not be in such a position to play ‘gawd’.

  • Cali Ron

    Broga: Agreed, when dealing with the religious the maximum amount of skepticism should always be applied.
    “He says the proposal may make “the position of some excellent professionals untenable” and deter people of faith from entering the profession.
    This would be to the detriment of the profession, patients and pharmacy as a whole.”
    Any health care provider who puts his personal beliefs before the health of his patients doesn’t belong in the profession and is actually harming the patient. So, in fact deterring those individuals would be for the betterment of the profession, the patients and the pharmacy.
    As for the Muslim Doctors Association the proper practice of medicine is incompatible with the Muslim religion and any doctor who is a Muslim is not complying with the strict and irrational dogma of Islam. And like 1859 said, it’s Bullshit.
    As always, the religious continue to try and force their deluded beliefs onto everyone else in the world every opportunity they get and quickly play the persecution card whenever any person or organization resists their religious tyranny!
    On a sunnier note may all of you freethinkers have a Super Saturnalia and Happy Holidays, however you choose to enjoy them! Sláinte!

  • L.Long

    Or more simply keep your penis and your religion out of view we are not interesting in either!!!!
    If you can’t do the job for ANY REASON!!! fucking QUIT!!!!! You bigoted self-righteous egocentric ahole!!!

  • barriejohn

    There was a case recently where a Texas teacher complained that she was fired and discriminated against after refusing to teach patients about contraceptive practices that, she says, violate her religious beliefs. No surprise there,but this was the bit that got me:
    For a year and a half, she said, Legacy Community Health had been willing to accommodate her religious beliefs by allowing her to play a 20-minute video about birth control instead of personally talking about it with patients. A registered nurse also was on-site to answer questions patients might have about contraceptives, she said.
    “The religious accommodation was very small and it did not increase the work of other employees at Legacy, nor did it cause hardship upon my employer,” Palma said in documents. “Moreover, it did not affect the vast majority of what I did as health educator.”
    (My emphasis.)
    So there you have it, then. If it doesn’t affect the “vast majority” of their work, why should anyone get worked up about their demands? In the case of pharmacists, this could have devastating consequences for their customers, but…it doesn’t affect the vast majority of them, so it must be OK. Funny that the boot doesn’t fit the other foot again, though!

  • John

    We should not be complaining about this update in the GPhC guidance to pharmacists and pharmacy staff.
    We should all compliment the GPhC for having brought their guidance advice to their members up-to-date.
    This can be done at, though you will need to register first before being able to leave a complimentary and supportive statement.
    Pharmacies receive payments in order to provide local pharmacy services. Recently, the government cut back on the amount of public funding provided for local pharmacy services and this may have motivated the GPhC to introduce this new guidance to ensure they receive public support for the continuation of their services.
    Ultimately, any form of discrimination which means that some people are treated differently from others is illegal.
    That is why despite the protestations from the so-called Christians in Pharmacy and Muslim Doctors Association the GPhC have revised their guidance on this matter.
    We should thank GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin and Joy Wingfield, founder of the Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association for having conducted the consultation which has resulted in the change to GPhC guidance.
    It also means that new entrants to the profession of pharmacy can no longer rely on outdated guidance to deny patients the services they are legally entitled to.
    It is not often that we are able to point to a clear cut “win” when confronting the forces of bigotry and irrationality. This – indeed – is one of those very rare occurrences. We should all be most happy about it.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    When you enter a job, it doesn’t matter what job, you are expected to do the whole job, not bits of it. Picking and choosing which bits you will/will not do is wrong. If you don’t wish to do the whole job, find another job that is compatible with your beliefs. Religion should not be an excuse to allow anyone to choose not to do their job and it should not be given any special privileges. Would it be acceptable for a Man Utd supporter to refuse service to a Man City supporter? Of course not. The religious demand is just as foolish.

  • Dawkstein

    “I don’t serve people born under Pices in my Fish and Chip shop”. Now if s chippy owner said that everyone would be laughing a him.

  • Dawkstein

    “I refuse to sell Mars Bars to any alien that comes into my Candy Store”. More ridicule is justified and maybe a visit from the men in white coats.
    But as far as I am concerned Martians are far more likely to exist than a god that tells pharmacists not to sell certain things that upset him. Mind you Martian life is probably restricted to bacterial form and even if they arrived at an Earthly Candy Store they would probably just infect the stock of Mars Bars without us even knowing.
    So why dont the men in white coats arrest piously bigoted pharmacists.

  • Brian Jordan

    Is it being made an ecumenical matter? AFAIK Islam doesn’t forbid contraception anyway.

  • John

    Re: “I don’t serve people born under Pices in my Fish and Chip shop”.
    People might object if – phonetically speaking – they thought you were referring to Roma people.
    If – on the other hand – they understood you to be referring to people born in the astrological vector of Pisces (note correct spelling) then they might react as you suggest.

  • AgentCormac

    ‘He says the proposal may… deter people of faith from entering the profession.’
    Well, if they aren’t prepared to actually do the job, perhaps they would be well advised to consider an alternative career.
    BTW, excellent first post on this thread, Broga.

  • Dawkstein

    John … 10/10 … go to the top of the class for being a smart arse.

  • Broga

    ‘AgentCormac: I was roused into the comments after hearing “people of faith” used three times in a couple of minutes on the BBC.

  • John

    Dawkstein: Thank You!
    The equivalent grade to a First Class Honours degree pass.
    Praise, indeed!

  • Bubblecar

    “This would be to the detriment of the profession…”
    Huh? Surely it could only be of benefit to the profession if people who are not prepared to do the job properly are discouraged from taking it up.

  • Dawkstein

    John … you really are a prick.

  • Cali Ron

    Dawkstein: Yes, but John is a prick with impeccable spelling and he isn’t afraid to lord it over others.

  • John

    And I don’t need coarse invective to get my points across.

  • Cali Ron

    John: I respect you avoidance of coarse invective, as well as your spelling and English skills. A little less condescension and a little more civility would be nice too.

  • John

    ‘you’ or ‘your’?

  • barriejohn

    I think he probably meant “you’re”.

  • Cali Ron

    OK, that was less condescending, but you couldn’t help taking the bait, could you? Do you think it’s necessary to correct every spelling error in every comment? You know it was a spelling error and that I meant “your”. Anyone reading it would immediately recognize that fact, so correcting the spelling when the intent was obvious is petty and comes across as condescending.
    As for your comment earlier concerning the article I agree 100%.

  • Daz

    I see nought wrong with coarse invective;
    It's extra vocab, to explain your perspective.
    A couple of 'fuck's and a handful of 'bloody's,
    A sprinkling of 'frigging's and maybe a 'ruddy'
    Can help emphasise, applaud or acclaim,
    Or used otherwise, may add some disdain.
    And mind, 'fore saying my point is but faeces,
    That it's informal chat; we're not writing theses.

  • barriejohn

    Daz: Agreed. And I think it would help if we used our energies attacking the enemies of reason rather than squabbling amongst ourselves.
    Makes me laugh every time:

  • Cali Ron

    barriejohn : You made my point in one sentence while I was going down the rabbit hole. I’m afraid my mental state of late is sometimes more foggy than clear. Just one of many symptoms of recently diagnosed celiac disease. Damn, but I sure do miss a good pint of stout.