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Viral infections

Quarter of pharmacists yet to be offered a COVID-19 risk assessment

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a survey by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the UK Black Pharmacists Association felt they were at risk from COVID-19 in the workplace.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this 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

BAME pharmacists

Source: PA Images

Of respondents to the survey, 71% of black pharmacists and 67% of Asian pharmacists felt at risk from COVID-19 at work

Almost a quarter of pharmacists have said they have still not been offered a COVID-19 risk assessment, more than three months after NHS England said employers should risk assess all staff, according to the latest survey by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA).

The survey also found that almost two-thirds of respondents felt they were at risk from COVID-19 in the workplace. Among black and Asian pharmacists, the figures were higher: 71% of black respondents felt at risk, as did 67% of Asian pharmacists. In addition, 68% of black pharmacists, and 58% of Asian respondents, felt that changes could be made to their workplace to reduce the risk. Among white respondents, the figure was lower, yet still significant, at just under half (44%).

Just over a fifth (22%) of black pharmacists said they had concerns about the potential consequences of risk assessments — including fears about restrictions to working practice or workplace discrimination. Concern was also expressed by 18% of Asian pharmacists, but just 6% of white respondents.

On 29 April 2020, NHS England said that employers should “risk assess staff at potentially greater risk” of COVID-19, and papers from an NHS England board meeting held on 25 June 2020 described this as a “clear instruction” — adding that employers “have a legal obligation to risk assess the health and safety of their employees”.

However, a previous survey carried out by the RPS and the UKBPA in June 2020 found that two-thirds of respondents had yet to be offered a risk assessment.

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said the findings “highlight that there is still work to be done to protect colleagues, especially those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“It’s unacceptable that over half of respondents feel more changes could be made to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, despite constant calls from RPS and the UKBPA for the NHS and other employers to risk access staff.”

Describing the findings as “very worrying”, Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UKBPA, said that it was “obvious from the survey respondents that employers could do more to deliver changes to the workplace to reduce exposure to COVID-19”.

Gomez Campos also said that it was “heart-breaking” to hear that staff were worried about possible consequences of risk assessments.

“This reflects badly on the culture of the workplace. It’s my hope that employers will be able to find and implement innovative and safer ways of delivering patient services without causing further stress to those doing their utmost in difficult and unpredictable times.”

NHS England was contacted for comment.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208254

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