Derived from the Sanskrit word dipavali which means ‘row of lights’, Diwali takes place over five days from the 15th day of the Hindu month Kartik, which overlaps October and November.

This year Diwali Day falls on November 4 although for many the festival begins several days beforehand. In the lead up to Diwali, those celebrating the festival, clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices, while illuminating the interior and exterior of their homes and businesses with diyas.

Festival of Lights: Selective focus on foreground of many burning tealight candles. Photo: iStock

The tradition continues because Hindus believe that goddess Lakshmi visits only those homes that are clean and well-lit. Some people even leave their doors and windows ajar to symbolically welcome the goddess.

Prayers are offered to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity, before fireworks are lit, a family feast takes place and gifts are shared.

“Diwali is also a time when families get together, to be ‘up close and personal’ and to celebrate in a very tactile and community-led way,” said Bharat Shah CBE, chairman of Sigma Pharmaceuticals, sincerely hoping that there would be a chance to celebrate the occasion after a Covid-inflicted obliteration last year.

Devotees also like to visit various places of worship during Diwali. Shah hopes they will get a chance to say their prayers in the temple of their choice this Diwali. “May the blessings of the Almighty be upon them at this time of the Festival of Lights!”

Let Diwali unite pharmacy

He added: “Our health and care system has faced a huge challenge over the past year and a half with Covid-19 placing unprecedented pressure and demand on frontline staff including community pharmacists.

Bharat Shah CBE is CEO of Sigma Pharmaceuticals

“The community pharmacy sector has been an indispensable element of the country’s Covid-19 response as demonstrated by an ever-increasing public reliance for access to vital medicines and healthcare advice. I do hope secretary of state for health and social care Sajid Javid will keep this in mind and ensure that we have a voice in the new integrated care systems.”

For community pharmacy teams who celebrate the festival, Diwali is a great occasion to take a moment to focus on the loved ones and reflect on the year that has just passed and plan for the year ahead.

“As we embrace the light, we recommit ourselves to the triumph of light over darkness,” said Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, who celebrates the Festival of Lights.

Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS in England

In her festive greetings to Pharmacy Business readers who celebrate Diwali she wrote: “Being the festival of lights, Diwali unites all the family members together. Going forward I hope to see unity within our profession and with other professionals.

“I wish you and all your loved ones a very Happy Diwali and Naya Saal Mubarak. Let the New Year bring light and prosperity into pharmacy!”

Time to get stuck in: Bharat Patel

To all celebrating the Festival of Lights, very best wishes for a Happy Diwali and a year filled with joy and prosperity. Diwali is a symbol of hope for all. May it bring universal compassion, inner joy of peace, love and awareness of unity to all.

Covid-19 has now been with us for almost two years, and everything feels a bit different after spending so long in response mode. Despite the Government’s encouragement for the country to return to normal, undoubtedly many of the issues that we have endured – both as healthcare professionals and as members of the public – will remain with us for sometime.

Bharat Patel, independent contractor and PSNC vice-chair

But there are some positives in community pharmacy. We are starting to see the fruition of clinical development for the sector, further cementing our role at the heart of the NHS, and as a critical part of local communities. And now is the time to get stuck in ahead of what is expected to be a tough winter.

Business at PSNC is also continuing at a relentless pace. Our policy directors are hard at work developing guidance and resources to support the sector and preparations are underway to begin negotiations on Year Four (2022/23) of the five-year deal.

We will continue to do everything we can to support you in the coming year, including fighting for the fair funding and support you so greatly deserve.

Renewed, refreshed and ready: Hemant Patel

Diwali is both my grandmother’s name and a celebration of one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. It’s like Christmas but with one major difference: most families do not eat meat on Diwali Day.

Hemant Patel is a community pharmacy thought leader

Like in most homes, my wife will lead the puja (prayers), diya lighting, decorating the home, shopping, organising gifts, preparing a big feast for the family, and, of course, sharing sweets. I will lead lighting of fireworks to entertain everybody, including our eight-month-old grandson who will be celebrating his first Diwali.

Diwali celebrates Rama’s eventual defeat of the evil spirit Ravana, and his triumphant return to his home. So, it is an auspicious time to start new ventures, as the festival coincides with the Hindu New Year. After an exhausting year, I too feel renewed, refreshed and ready for an exciting g year ahead.  I wish you all a happy Diwali.

Brighter months ahead: Pete Kelly

“Despite the fight against Covid-19 being far from over, we hope that this festival will signal the brighter months ahead and give us all cause to pause and appreciate what has been achieved and what we are thankful for.

“It is certainly something that we at Accord will be reflecting on as we give thanks to all the pharmacy teams across the country who have kept going under remarkable pressure and difficult times. We also acknowledge and thank all of our teams within Accord, who have helped to maintain our supply and distribution chain, so that medicines are available for patients when they need them.

Peter Kelly, managing director, Accord UK

“It is often during the toughest times that we find our strength, and I am proud to be part of the dedicated healthcare community that is doing so much to make it better every day for millions of people in the UK. We couldn’t do what we do without the dedication of pharmacists and we want to take the opportunity during this festive season to say thank you again and happy Diwali.”

Let’s spread the joy: Kim Innes

“Diwali is all about spreading joy and lighting up the world of those around us. I hope you get the opportunity to connect with your loved ones and spend some quality time with them – last year was so challenging for the whole pharmacy profession, and each and every one of you deserves a Diwali filled with prosperity and happiness.

Kim Innes, general manager, TEVA UK

“This Festival of Lights, don’t forget how you already light up the world of so many around you – the patients and families you serve every single day. From me and all of the Teva UK team, we wish you a Happy Diwali – we’re proud to be your partners. Thank you for illuminating the lives of those you help, and for everything you do to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

A time for reflection: Julian Mount

“Diwali is a time for celebration, and a time for reflection. It is important that we take a moment to stop and enjoy Diwali, and to recognise the incredible dedication and commitment each pharmacy team member has shown to UK patients and our society, during these difficult times.

“Your unwavering resilience in the fight against Covid-19 is something all those in community pharmacy should feel extremely proud about. At Alliance Healthcare, we recognise Diwali as part of our continued commitment to help make all team members feel part of a diverse and inclusive workplace, as we showcase the colour, vibrancy and excitement of Diwali.

Julian Mount, managing director, Alliance Healthcare

“My teams are encouraged to dress in their traditional clothing and share their stories, as together, we mark this special occasion. In the world’s largest Diwali celebrating community – India, Alliance Healthcare has supported the AWARE Foundation and Vitamin Angels charities, with their efforts to reach children in deprived communities throughout India and beyond, to not only eliminate malnutrition but to transform their lives for the better.

“I would like to personally thank you for your passion and care in everything you all do for our society. I wish you all a Diwali that brings happiness, prosperity and joy to you, your teams and all your loved ones.”

Pioneering prevention: Jeremy Meader

“Diwali is a time to celebrate light over darkness. This year that message resonates across the globe as we are recovering from the Covid pandemic and seeking a gradual return to the freedoms we enjoyed before.

“Over the last eighteen months, local community pharmacy has proved its value as the ‘third pillar’ in our national healthcare delivery service alongside A&E and GPs.

“When access to the latter was understandably restricted, community pharmacies kept their doors open providing not only medication, but also trusted professional healthcare support and advice, taking even greater responsibility for shining light on their local communities in the toughest of times.

Jeremy Meader is managing director of Numark

“Now, more than ever, exists a unique opportunity to improve patient access to healthcare and pioneer illness prevention, chronic condition management, testing, triage, wellbeing advice and support through community pharmacy, as a trusted partner with local GP practices helping to reduce the strain on surgeries and A&E departments.

“The healthcare challenges facing our nation are daunting, recovering from Covid will be the biggest challenge the NHS has faced since its inception. Pharmacies up and down the country have excelled and genuinely been beacons of light. I trust this year’s festival will enable that to be both recognised and widely celebrated.

“My very best wishes for Diwali and for what I am sure we are all hoping and praying for, an end to the dark days of Covid and the hope and belief that the new year will bring a welcome return to the light.”

Shining light on patient care: Kevin Birch

“Diwali is a wonderful time, an opportunity to celebrate the victory of good over evil, and of light over darkness. And right now, it’s certainly a time to reflect on the extraordinary times we’ve been living through.

“At LloydsPharmacy, our place in the community has never been more important and for many people, our pharmacy teams have often been a beacon as we’ve lived through the Covid pandemic. We’ve learnt that some things we take for granted are more important than we had otherwise considered – communities sprung into action to help one another, and we regained our appreciation for those key workers who kept going so that we could keep our families healthy, our streets clean, and our communities fed.

“Perhaps now is also a time for reflection from our national stakeholders on the importance of community pharmacy. With our new secretary of state committing to using the full potential of community pharmacy, it certainly feels that we are moving into a new phase in the life of our sector. After years of reduced funding and a focus on other parts of the system, community pharmacy is in need of a new appreciation – and a commitment to a sustainable future.

Kevin Birch, chief retail officer, LloydsPharmacy

“Covid has certainly shone a light on the important role our community pharmacies play in society. Our teams are passionate about combining technical knowledge with the ‘human touch’, providing patient-centred care that’s so critical, especially for more vulnerable groups in our communities.

“Diwali is all about new beginnings, and there could be no better time to embrace the pharmacies that sit at the heart of our communities, and to shine a light on the important role they play as the first point of healthcare contact for many of us. Happy Diwali to everyone!”

Forever indebted: Amit Patel

“This is the first Diwali since the beginning of pharmacy’s great battle against Covid and because of the work you have all put in keeping your doors open, staying resilient, putting yourselves and your families at risk and supplying healthcare, advice and medicines to our populations, we can meet again!

Amit Patel, CEO, Pharmacy London

“I can list the work you have done but would run out of not just my allocated words but my human capacity for gratitude. Because of you we can hug our families, eat together and see our friends and relatives. Before we do, I ask you all to please keep yourselves safe and take some time to spare a thought for the loved ones who cannot be with us.

“I am learning and growing because of the example you have all set for me, and I am forever indebted for you all keeping those I love safe and alive. Happy Diwali and Nutan Varshano Khubh Abhinandan, my friends and colleagues.”

 Year of introspection: Bhavisha Patel

“Without a doubt Covid has been one of the most difficult things we have all lived through. Diwali definitely wasn’t the same last year with all the restrictions still in place. This year I plan on going to the mandir and spending some time with my family over the festive period.

“The past year has forced me to slow down and introspect on my own self. Covid has involved so much of looking after patients that I’ve not necessarily taken that time for myself when I needed to. It’s really forced me to ask myself questions such as: What am I doing? Where am I going? What do I want to achieve? I believe this is key for all of us to do in pharmacy, by illuminating that light within us we are able to ensure our patients get the best of us and in turn they receive the best care possible.

Bhavisha Patel, pharmacist

“Looking to the future, I’m sure pharmacy will continue to provide outstanding care to the nation. We may not think it at times but pharmacy really has come out on top during the pandemic, and if your patients haven’t told you already to all the pharmacy team members out there thank you for all that you do – literally saving lives one prescription at a time!”

 Spirit of joy, festivity: Gurinder Singh

“At a time when different religious groups come together to celebrate their own meaning of Diwali, there is one commonality between all of them – the spirit of joy and festivity. For Sikhs it is ‘Bandi Chhor Divas’ – it reminds us of freedom and human rights.

Gurinder Singh is a community pharmacist and lecturer

“The sixth Guru found a positive way out of an otherwise very dark situation. It has often felt this year there is no light at the end of the tunnel with workload increasing, staff sickness, workforce movement across sectors and the sector not being remunerated adequately.

“But still pharmacy staff continue to think of their patients before themselves and ensuring no patient is left without medication. Staff continue to go above and beyond to increase accessibility for patients and help reduce the wide inequalities we are beginning to see in different population groups.

“I hope in whatever way you are celebrating this year you get some time with your loved ones. If you are working, take in your favourite Indian sweet.”

Time to think about future: Mark Lyonette

“I wish all my colleagues and friends celebrating Diwali – and all Pharmacy Business readers – the very best to you, your families, the people you work with and the patients you serve.

“Covid-19 took its toll on last year’s Diwali festivities. Friends and families could not get together to celebrate in the way that they would have wanted. This year I hope that everyone will be able to enjoy this wonderful festival to its fullest – with loving company and anticipation of many blessings to come.

Mark Lyonette, CEO, National Pharmacy Association

“Several members of the NPA board are Hindu and I know from them just how important this is to everyone in that community. Sikhs, Jains and many others will also mark the occasion. As you light candles, share gifts, eat and gather together, I hope the experience will be truly replenishing, following the trauma and exhaustion caused by the pandemic.

“As Diwali coincides with the Hindu New Year, many of you will use this time to think about the future and what you wish to see change. The NPA is currently marking our centenary year by looking to the future of community pharmacy and thinking about how to make the sector fit for the years ahead. Thank you to the thousands of NPA members who are on this journey with us. Happy Diwali!”

Seeing the light this year: Malcolm Harrison

“Happy Diwali to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities and readers of Pharmacy Business magazine. Although I do not celebrate, I can appreciate the symbol of hope and new beginnings that the Festival of Lights offers. I hope you can celebrate with your families and friends in ways that are a little closer to pre-pandemic.

Malcolm Harrison, CEO, Company Chemists’ Association

“Celebrating the Festival of Lights after the challenges we faced at the height of the pandemic and achieving a majority vaccinated population feels extra apt. I have seen a lot of reasons to see the light this year and although continuing challenges exist, it is important to reflect on the successes and the value community pharmacists have brought to their communities.

“We see the value of community pharmacists and we are working hard to campaign for investment in the sector and support to alleviate workforce pressures. Indeed, it was promising to see recognition for independent prescribing in the health secretary’s recently published blueprint that we hope we can capitalise on. I wish everybody a happy and well-deserved Diwali celebration.”

Values of Diwali: Dr Leyla Hannbeck

“I hope my thoughts here on the brightest of all Hindi celebrations can be shared by all of us irrespective of faith, nationality, status or religion.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck is chief executive officer at the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies

“The ideas around victory of good over evil and new beginnings are a worthy aspiration for all of us. To move on and learn from our past but reject living in that past are surely worthy sentiments for mankind.

“Over the years, I have particularly been drawn to the values of Diwali. May we be blessed with the riches of faith, sincerity and hope as we cast away the darkness of hatred and ignorance. On that positive and uplifting note, I would like to wish you all a Happy Diwali and success in the future.”

Lighting new diyas: Paul Bennett

“Community pharmacy is the backbone of healthcare in local areas. Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and the whole pharmacy team play a vital role in supporting the nation’s health and enabling the public to access medicines safely and effectively.

“You and your teams provide  essential  advice  and  clinical  care,  ensure medicines are used in the right way to benefit patients and provide a lifeline for people with long term conditions on a daily basis. Your contribution and impact cannot be underestimated in your community.

Paul Bennett, CEO, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

“We have all overcome many new challenges in the past 18 months. On the occasion of Diwali, let us come together and look forward to a brighter future. I wish that you and your teams are blessed with good fortune, prosperity and success. Let us come together to celebrate this holy occasion by lighting diyas of new ventures to take you and your business to new heights.

“Wishing everyone health, happiness and light. Shubh Diwali!”

Collaboration and teamwork: Michelle Riddalls

“At PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, we have long believed that pharmacists’ skills and expertise deserve greater recognition. And the last 18 months have only strengthened our conviction that pharmacy should be at the heart of a health system designed to support self care, as we said in our recently-launched blueprint for a national self care strategy.

Michelle Riddalls, CEO, PAGB

“As millions heeded Government advice during the pandemic to self care wherever possible, pharmacists were – in some cases quite literally – a lifeline. That’s why we will continue to press for an enhanced role for pharmacists, including the right to refer people to other healthcare professionals where necessary and the right to update as well as read patients’ medical records.

“So as PAGB continues to advocate for pharmacy, and to highlight both its achievements and its potential, I would like to wish all of those in pharmacy who are celebrating Diwali a happy and peaceful holiday.” 

Extraordinary commitment: Jeremy Main

“The Healthcare Distributors Association on behalf of the UK wholesalers would like to send greetings and best wishes to everybody in the pharmacy world at this special time of year.

Jeremy Main, independent chair of the Healthcare Distribution Association

“We know only too well that there are numerous challenges facing us all and the last few months in particular have been extremely challenging with recent fuel shortages, driver shortages and warehouse and pharmacy staff shortages putting immense pressure on the supply chain and on pharmacy.

“With these issues arriving on the back of the massive strain of managing through 18 months of the pandemic, and now facing into a busy vaccination program, there is no doubt that this winter is shaping up to be the most challenging ever.

Light decoration. Photo: iStock

“We hope that one day, all of you working in pharmacy – this resilient and hugely dedicated backbone of the NHS – will be properly recognised and funded by the government for your unceasing commitment to the health of patients in communities. Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Diwali!”

If you want to share your stories and/or experiences with us, please send an email to [email protected]

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