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70% of BAME pharmacists in the UK have had no risk assessment for COVID-19

Published on 26/06/20 at 11:11am
Photo by Lewis Clarke

More than two thirds of black, Asian and minority ethnic pharmacists have not had any workplace risk assessments for COVID-19, according to a recent study.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the UK Blacks Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) surveyed 380 hospital and community based pharmacists with 236 being from a BAME background. Of those, 70%, or 166 pharmacists, had not been approached by their employer to have a risk assessment.

The research also found that 78% of black pharmacists and pharmacy students felt they were at risk of COVID-19 and wanted their employers to make changes to their workplaces.

Sandra Gidley, the President of the RPS, said: “Those at high risk can be supported to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, while still providing a vital service to the NHS and the public. Lessons are to be learned from this pandemic, especially with the risk of a second wave, and we now need action so our workforce is protected.”

Both RPS and the UKBPA have called for mandatory risk assessments for BAME staff and they have written to the government asking for better support for BAME pharmacists. Ely Gomez Campos, the UKBPA President, said pharmacists need to feel safe at work: “This is the time to look after each other and to look after everyone. Our profession must rise to the challenge and respond to a call to risk assess pharmacy staff. In a month's time, the survey results must be very different from what we see today.”

In April, NHS England, Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland issued guidance which stated that ethnic healthcare workers should be risk assessed for the virus, as Public Health England concluded that people from BAME backgrounds were disproportionately dying from the virus. Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that deaths of black Africans from the virus are 3.7 times higher than might be expected by geography and age, the risk for Pakistanis is 2.9 times higher while for black Caribbean people it is 1.8 times higher.

NHS England’s letter to hospitals and pharmacies on 24 June, said that all employers need to make significant progress in carrying out risk assessments over the next month. It has also asked organisations to publish information on the number of staff that have already been risk assessed, including the number for BAME staff, and are urging employers to make clear what mitigation strategies are in place in settings where infection rates are the highest.

Conor Kavanagh

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