Black and ethnic minority females underrepresented in senior pharmacist roles in England

NHS data also show that a higher percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic pharmacy team members reported harassment, bullying or abuse from fellow NHS staff.
Asian pharmacist stocking shelves

The first ever Pharmacy Workforce Race Equality Standard (PWRES) report has revealed that pharmacists of black, Asian and ethnic origin are underrepresented in senior roles in England, with female pharmacists disproportionately affected.

The report into race equality in NHS-employed pharmacy teams, published on 27 September 2023, has also revealed that pharmacy team members of black, Asian and minority ethnic origin reported more harassment, bullying and abuse, poorer career progression and greater experience of discrimination than white colleagues.

The PWRES marks the first time that national data on representation, experience and discrimination has been made available using electronic staff record data and the NHS Staff Survey results.

It shows that black, Asian and minority ethnic women were underrepresented at higher NHS ‘Agenda for change’ (AfC) banding: in March 2022, they made up 31.9% of pharmacists overall, 24.2% of whom were at band 8a or above. The data show a steep decline in representation from band 8a (27.6%) to band 9 (5.9%).

Bands 8a to 8d cover more senior roles, including advanced and consultant pharmacists, as well as management of pharmaceutical services. Chief pharmacist roles are typically AfC band 9.

A higher percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic pharmacy team members (25.3%) than white pharmacy team members (21.1%) reported harassment, bullying or abuse from fellow NHS staff in 2021. The report said this trend was evident since at least 2015.

Tase Oputu, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, said the first-ever PWRES report was “a welcome and profoundly important call to action for the NHS”.

“Issues around race and racism are deep rooted in the workforce and have historically been pushed aside and ignored, creating disadvantage, discrimination and harm in the workplace.

“The report provides evidence of the inequalities present across the secondary care system and I hope it will create a sea change for colleagues working in NHS as the trauma of racial abuse is finally recognised. It is shocking and unacceptable to see that across all indicators the [black, Asian and minority ethnic] staff experience is worse than their white counterparts.”

Oputu added that “in-depth work must begin to tackle the issues and improve the situation”.

“All trusts should prioritise examining their own workforce data against this report and implement an immediate action plan so we start to see real change.”

Elsy Gomez Campos, founder and former president of the UK Black Pharmacists’ Association, said: “It is a positive development that the PWRES has finally been made available. However, the findings don’t come as a surprise. The issue of under-representation of black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff in higher-paying roles within the NHS has been widely acknowledged, as has the unfortunate mistreatment of these individuals by both colleagues and patients.

“Furthermore, there’s an urgent need to tackle the gender pay gap, especially as it disproportionately affects women of colour.”

In the report’s introduction, David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said: “The ultimate aim is for all employers across all settings to bring about the positive change we wish to see in people’s experiences of career progression, discrimination and racism, to ensure all colleagues are treated with the respect and fairness that they deserve, and that we retain the skills and maximise the potential of our diverse pharmacy workforce.”

Data exclusively obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal in February 2022 from NHS trusts and health boards across Great Britain suggested a lack of diversity in management positions in a third of pharmacy departments.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2023, Vol 311, No 7977;311(7977)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.197482

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