The Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA) has joined other healthcare organisations in calling for the safeguarding of healthcare facilities and personnel in areas of conflict.

Dr Graham Stretch, PCPA president, told The Pharmacist that he signed the open letter, coordinated by the World Health Professions Alliance, last week following a short discussion with the PCPA executive committee.

The letter has been signed by hundreds of health professionals from over 40 countries, including leaders from the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

It expresses ‘grave concern’ around, and ‘unwavering condemnation’ of, ‘escalating violence targeting healthcare facilities and personnel in various regions worldwide’.

‘As advocates for universal health coverage irrespective of political affiliations or beliefs, we staunchly advocate for the complete respect of neutrality in healthcare provision,’ the letter said.

And it added that safeguarding healthcare facilities and personnel from harm during conflict was enshrined in international humanitarian law.

The letter continued: ‘Any misuse of healthcare facilities and ambulances for military purposes is both prohibited and utterly unacceptable.

‘Placing healthcare facilities and personnel in the line of fire during conflicts is not only unacceptable but also unjustifiable. Hospitals, ambulances, and health workers must never be targeted.’

It concluded: ‘Let us remember that healthcare professionals dedicate themselves to treating the injured and unwell without bias and with absolute neutrality. We are bound by our codes of ethics to do so, despite risks to our personal safety. This fundamental humanitarian duty demands a minimum of respect, honesty, and peace.’

And it called upon ‘all parties involved in conflicts’ to ‘unconditionally uphold all aspects of humanitarian law’.

Commenting on the letter, Dr Stretch told The Pharmacist: 'We all feel powerless when reading or hearing about abuses and contraventions of conventions and laws in conflict zones, but it is important that professionals selflessly providing healthcare on the frontline know that their colleagues support and advocate for them around the world. Public opinion can effect change.'

Other signatories include:

  • Minna Eii, vice-chair of sustainability at the GHP;
  • Mark Koziol, chair of the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA), as well as Maurice Hickey, the PDA’s head of policy in Scotland;
  • Paul Bennett, chief executive officer of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society;
  • Professor Claire Anderson, who is also the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, in her capacity as a professor at the University of Nottingham;
  • and several staff at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) including associate directors Farhan Ismail and Dalia Dowoud.