Coronavirus: 70% of BAME pharmacists have had no risk assessment – survey

PharmacistImage copyright
Getty Images

More than two thirds of black, Asian and minority ethnic pharmacists have not had workplace risk assessments for coronavirus, a survey suggests.

Of the 380 hospital and community-based pharmacists surveyed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the UK Black Pharmacists Association, 236 were from a BAME background.

Of those, 166 (70%) said they had not been approached by their employer to have a risk assessment.

The RPS called the results “shocking”.

And it called on employers to take urgent action to ensure ethnic minority pharmacists are risk assessed.

NHS England said it had written to hospital trusts, clinical commissioning groups and community pharmacists asking all employers to carry out risk assessments for at-risk staff within the next two weeks.

The RPS-UKBPA survey also found that 78% of black pharmacists and pharmacy students felt they were at risk of coronavirus and wanted changes to be made to the way they work.

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said it was essential that pharmacists were properly risk assessed.

“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.”

Some 43% of the pharmacist workforce across the UK is from a BAME background, according to the General Pharmaceutical Council, which regulates pharmacists.

‘Rise to the challenge’

Both the RPS and the UKBPA have already called for individual risk assessments to be mandatory for BAME staff. They have also written to the government asking for better support for BAME pharmacists.

UKBPA President Elsy Gomez Campos said pharmacists needed 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.”

At the end of April, NHS England recommended that ethnic minority healthcare workers should be risk assessed for the virus. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have issued similar guidance.

A number of reviews into deaths from Covid-19, including by Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics, have now concluded that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately dying from the virus.

Among the reasons for this are existing health inequalities, public-facing occupations and structural racism.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBAME coronavirus deaths: What’s the risk for ethnic minorities?

There were at least 3,876 deaths of BAME individuals in hospitals in England up to 9 June. This means that BAME people represented 15.5% of all coronavirus deaths up to this point.

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, while the risk for Pakistanis is 2.9 times higher and for black Caribbean people it is 1.8 times higher.

NHS England’s letter to hospitals, CCGs and community pharmacists on 24 June states: “All employers need to make significant progress in deploying risk assessments within the next two weeks and complete them – at least for all staff in at-risk groups – within four weeks.”

It is also asking organisations to publish information on the number of staff who have been risk-assessed, including how many assessments have been completed for BAME staff, and are urging employers to make clear what additional mitigation is in place in settings where infection rates are highest.