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NHS England

Pharmacy contractors asked for modern slavery compliance statements

Pharmacists being asked by NHS England to submit statements detailing their compliance with the Modern Slavery Act.

Pharmacists have been asked by NHS England to submit statements detailing their compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 covers numerous forms of modern slavery including forced labour and domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child exploitation and sexual exploitation. The UK Home Office has estimated that in 2016, there were between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK.

Under section 54 of the Act, any business with an annual turnover of greater than £36 million must prepare and publish a mandatory ‘modern slavery’ statement explaining what they are doing to prevent modern slavery in their organisations and their supply chains. Smaller businesses are not subject to this requirement, but some pharmacists offering NHS commissioned services have received letters asking them to submit “compliance statements” even if their business does not turn over the £36 million threshold.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief pharmacist at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), told NPA members that the association’s legal team and employment advisory business partner, Ellis Whittam, had both said it was advisable to comply with the request, even though there was no legal obligation to submit a statement to an NHS organisation.

Section 54 of the Act covers modern slavery taking place within an organisation and its supply chains, rather than among service users. But NHS England believes that frontline staff are in a position to identify potential victims amongst patients, and has produced guidance to help staff recognise warning signs and respond appropriately.

In December 2016 the UK Work and Pensions Committee were told by a victim of modern slavery, known as  “Client T”,  that he had been taken to the police by a pharmacist after he had visited the pharmacy suffering from food poisoning and depression.

“The pharmacist saw that I am not okay and she asked me more questions,” Client T said in his oral evidence to the committee. He added that upon arrival at the police station, he “couldn’t find my words at first, but the pharmacist spoke for me at first and afterwards I got courage to express myself and my problem.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203457

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