Pharmacy professionals see ‘the festival of lights’ as an opportunity to reach out to and protect the most vulnerable and isolated patients from the effects of a deadly virus in the community…

Need spirit of Diwali now more than ever: Harpreet Chana

Whether it’s usual for you to have a big celebration at home or a more communal celebration at the mandir/ gurdwara, there are always a few things that are synonymous with Diwali – celebrating with family, being with lots of people, huge mountains of food for all and just a great big dose of happiness for everyone!

Harpreet Chana

This year, as we brace ourselves for a long winter ahead filled with worry, uncertainty and a second wave of infection and isolation, we are facing a very different Diwali. Just as the countless birthdays, anniversaries and other special events that we have not been able to celebrate since March, Diwali will also be a very muted affair.

The likelihood is that for the large majority of us, we won’t be able to mix with other households at all and for those that can, the limit of six doesn’t even cover most single Indian households! In short, it’s looking like Diwali is effectively ‘cancelled’ this year.

However, as with anything, our experience of Diwali will be very much dependent on how we choose to see it. As saddening as it is that we can’t ‘indulge’ as we would like, we can let choose to let the current situation break us or build us.

As well as being a time of great joy, Diwali is also a time for introspection and reflection. The light of the diya doesn’t just illuminate our homes, but also our lives. It is a symbol of hope and togetherness and we need that now more than ever. Happy Diwali/Bandi Chhor Divas everyone!

Harpreet Chana Pharmacist, founder of the Mental Wealth Academy.


Proud of praise, recognition: Ash Soni

This has been a challenging year for us all and for some there have been dark times as we have lost colleagues, friends and family to Covid. It is important for us to look for the light now and over the next year.

Ash Soni OBE. (Photo: Jason Alden)

We have all worked extremely hard and have been, for many people, the front door to healthcare as surgeries have closed their doors and hospitals have struggled to deal with the influx of patients with Covid.

This has been widely recognised and we continue to receive praise for everything we have and continue to do. The hope is that this recognition leads to a better understanding of the value and benefit that community pharmacies through the pharmacists and their teams play in supporting the health and wellbeing of the nation.

We continue to ensure patients get their medicines, the public have access to advice and fellow health professionals can refer to our pharmacies.

As the NHS evolves and further integration of care takes place, community pharmacy needs to be seen as a vital cog in that integration and an essential part of the whole health and care system and you are all properly rewarded for all the care you provide.

I want to add my personal thanks to you all and continue to advocate on your behalf wherever I get the opportunity. Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful and prosperous year ahead!

Ashok Soni OBE is a pharmacy contractor and former RPS president.



Stay at home Diwali: Bhavisha Patel

I spend usually Diwali with friends and family. The gatherings involve a large amount of yummy food, and a whole display of fireworks. I then spend the following day, otherwise known as Hindu New Year, volunteering at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden.

Bhavisha Patel

This year is going to be different – Diwali is going to be spent at home. Earlier on during lockdown there were a few days, when my family were spending more time at home, where I remember waking up thinking it smells like Diwali?

Last year I spent Diwali thinking, this is the year to go and study towards your diploma and to build upon my undergraduate studies. A whole year later, I’m still working towards my diploma but balancing it all amidst a global pandemic has been hard to say the least. For the upcoming year, I am considering undertaking my Independent Prescribing qualification, but who knows what the following year will entail!

Bhavisha Patel is pharmacist manager at Day Lewis Pharmacy.



Diwali sans the human connection: Gurinder Purewal

The year 2020 has been one of sacrifice. It is a year that will live long in our memories mostly for the wrong reasons. We have all made a sacrifice in one way or another whether that was a holiday you had booked, a wedding you had been planning for the last three years or a religious festival.

Gurinder Purewal

Easter and Eid have been and gone without any celebration and Diwali will be no different. For Sikhs, Diwali is remembering the extraordinary efforts of our sixth Guru who was not content on being released from imprisonment alone and would only leave prison if the 52 princes would be released too at the same time.

Every year Sikhs go to the Gurdwara to celebrate this occasion so it will be disappointing to not be able to do that but a decision we must all take and abide by to keep our families and local communities safe.

It is a time of year when the best food comes out, families get together at the local Gurdwara, hold firework displays and most importantly it is a very fun occasion for our younger kids. Normally they would get involved in arts and craft and it is a chance for everyone to dress up.

The human connection Diwali brings with it each year will be dearly missed. However, I hope anyone celebrating can still find a way to remember the sixth Guru in their own homes by having fireworks in the garden, making lots of tasty food and above all listening to singing of hymns.

Gurinder Singh Purewal is a teacher-practitioner pharmacist at the University of Reading.


Protect the vulnerable: Amish Patel

As we soon approach Diwali, I would like to reflect on the last year and plan for the year ahead. However, what a year it has been! And I don’t think that this time last year anyone expected us to be living our lives the way we do currently.

Amish Patel

As well as a time for reflection and planning, Diwali has always been about celebrating with family. For me personally, my wife and I welcomed a new addition at the start of the year, and whilst I know the whole extended family would love to spend this time together, due to Covid-19, the celebrations will unfortunately be a little muted this year. With local lockdowns and restrictions varying across the country, any celebrations will certainly be different up and down the country.

However, we must look to find ways to protect the most vulnerable within our communities and beyond. Community pharmacy has always shown resilience and innovation whenever faced with challenges. This must be in the blood of a community pharmacist, I guess.

Although small and intimate celebrations have their appeal, no one should be left feeling alone in darkness as we celebrate the festival of light. Whether it be a small get together, or a large virtual gathering on Zoom with the entire extended family or even your community, spread the message and have everyone do their bit. I wish everyone a Happy Diwali!

Amish Patel is owner of Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield, Kent.


Our interventions can have a marked effect on the patient: Darshan Negandhi

The festivities and enjoyment of this year’s Diwali will be one to remember, for all the wrong reasons. With a second national lockdown and restrictions in gatherings, celebrations this year are set to look very different.

What can we, as the pharmacy community, do to encourage our communities and families to limit the impact of Covid-19 and still enjoy the festivities? Well first and foremost, adhere to government guidelines. It is not a secret that areas that have seen the largest spikes in Covid-19 cases have disproportionately more BAME backgrounds, especially in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan communities.

By keeping tabs on the elderly and vulnerable patients, neighbours, friends and family, we can attempt to reassure people and keep anxiety levels down. The use of Skype, Zoom and such mediums can bring loved ones together more frequently and reduce the impact of isolation.

These technologies are also being trialled as a means of remote consultation in the pharmacy setting to aid diagnosis and appropriate treatments, without needing the patient to physically attend the pharmacy for minor ailments.

Where technology is a challenge, the use of phone calls to check-in with patients who are known to be vulnerable and isolated, and enquire how they are getting on could make a huge difference to the management and outcome of that patient.

Candles and oil lamps are lit for Diwali

And where the lack of time and resources are the enemy of all clinicians, I guess the question that needs to be asked is that; if it is not our problem, then whose problem is it? The interventions made, no matter how small or insignificant can in fact have a marked effect on the patient.

The impact on mental health, on top of any pre-existing comorbidities, is taking an immense toll, especially on those who are vulnerable and isolated. As pharmacy teams up and down the country, we can make a difference to these individuals in our community.

It is a team effort and where we, as pharmacy professionals tend to see the impact made within the four walls of our premises, we forget the impact made by other members of our team, such as our delivery drivers, who see the most frail of our community. This is an opportunity as part of our outreach to monitor and raise concerns back to the GP teams.

May the festival of light shine brightly in your homes and hearts, as we look to protect everyone in our community from the effects of this horrid virus.

This year, more than ever, we pray for new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness.

Darshan Negandhi is PCN clinical pharmacist and director at Lewisham Pharmacy. 



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