Racism and discrimination in pharmacy need urgent attention

As someone involved in discussions on racism and discrimination, I have observed that such conversations tend to be met with skepticism, with many individuals demanding evidence to support it exists.  Meanwhile, those who are victims of discrimination are forced to endure and persevere in the workplace, with negative impacts on their mental health and/or career advancement.  

The Pharmacy Workforce Race Equality Standard (PWRES) ‘NHS England » Pharmacy Workforce Race Equality Standard‘ report and the differential attainment report ‘RPS Differential Attainment Gap‘ 2024 are seminal reports providing unequivocal evidence on racism in the NHS and within pharmacy education and training. What is most concerning is the lack of outcry from all corners to address this issue.  

The surge in public consciousness regarding racism, discrimination, and inequality seen during the pandemic has waned. “Inclusion” commitments are not always followed by actions, and progress does not necessarily mean ‘change’.  

This is particularly worrisome as the pharmacy workforce is facing a crisis. The pace of change, increase in services, and pressure to deliver are significant. The NHS workforce plan aims to increase pharmacist training places by 50% over the next eight years to support this effort. However, the RPS workforce wellbeing survey highlights that 86% of pharmacists are at high risk of burnout, and underlying factors must be addressed. Racism and discrimination are among those factors that need urgent attention. Such scourges threaten all that we are trying to achieve. A diverse workforce that is compassionate and inclusive is crucial for improving patient safety, staff retention, profitability, and decreasing inequalities.  

Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for the new generation of pharmacists is crucial. Failure to do so will result in the loss of critical staff and deter students from pursuing a career in pharmacy.  

The RPS must maintain its focus on inclusion and diversity, through its own programme of work and collaboration with other pharmacy organisations, especially the GPhC and APTUK. Every aspect of pharmacy must be part of this work, without exception. There should be advocacy to ensure that regulatory and professional levers are utilised to hold individuals, employers, and organisations accountable for demonstrating improvement in their PWRES data and attainment/awarding data. Failure to take appropriate action will have significant consequences for our workforce and our patients. We cannot afford to get this wrong. 

Tase Oputu

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2024, Vol 312, No 7985;312(7985)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.313525

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