Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this feature article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
To learn more about coronavirus, please visit: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/pharmacy-guides/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images
More than two-thirds of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) pharmacists say they have still not been offered COVID-19 risk assessments almost two months after NHS England said employers should risk assess all staff, according to a survey from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA).
The survey, which covered pharmacists working in both primary and secondary care, ran between 12–22 June 2020 and received 380 responses, of which 236 respondents said they were from a BAME background. Of respondents identifying as BAME, 69 were from a black background.
Among black respondents, 78% believed they were at risk of COVID-19 and wanted to see changes to their working practices. A smaller proportion (67%) of white respondents said the same.
On 29 April 2020, NHS England said employers should “risk assess staff at potentially greater risk” of COVID-19 after “emerging UK and international data” suggested people from BAME backgrounds are “being disproportionately affected” by the disease.
Papers from the NHS England board meeting of 25 June 2020 said that employers were sent a “clear instruction” that staff members at risk should be risk-assessed, and it said that employers had a legal obligation to risk assess the health and safety of their employees.
However, at the end of May, pharmacy leaders expressed concerns that these assessments were not always being carried out.
Well Pharmacy announced on 19 June 2020 that it was to offer COVID-19 risk assessments to all staff.
The RPS and UKBPA survey will be repeated next month to find out whether the situation has improved.
Describing the survey findings as “shocking”, Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said that employers must take “urgent action to address this and ensure pharmacists and their team can continue looking after patients safely”.
Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UKBPA, said it was “concerning to hear that pharmacy colleagues are still waiting for a COVID-19 risk assessment. Pharmacy staff need to feel safe if they are going to do their job without fear or anxiety.
“We now know that COVID-19 has negatively affected the BAME population the most, including health and care staff.
“In a month’s time, the survey results must be very different from what we see today.”
The RPS and the UKBPA, together with the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, has published a position statement saying that every member of the pharmacy team must receive a “culturally competent” risk assessment and that, where required, actions “must be taken to protect the team member”.