What steps have community pharmacy bodies taken to tackle racism?
Two years after the tragic death of George Floyd, how have pharmacy organisations tackled racism in the sector and what more should they do to combat the barriers to change?
On June 8, 2020, as tensions flared following the murder of George Floyd – which had happened just two weeks earlier – Boris Johnson made a sombre speech from Downing Street.
“In this country and around the world, [George Floyd’s] dying words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ have awakened an anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law,” the prime minister said.
While the UK had already made “huge strides” in recent decades, he claimed, “we must also frankly acknowledge that there is so much more to do – in eradicating prejudice, and creating opportunity, and the government I lead is committed to that effort”.
As racial inequality was brought to the fore and Black Lives Matter protests swept across the globe, institutions questioned what they needed to take to tackle racism – community pharmacy included.
A C+D survey conducted in July 2020 revealed some shocking statistics about pharmacy professionals’ experience of racism – both from patient and from their own colleagues.
But the results of last year’s C+D racism in pharmacy survey suggested very little had changed over the previous 12 months.
A huge 63% of respondents revealed that they had suffered racial abuse at least once from patients in the six months prior to the survey, and more than two thirds of Pakistani pharmacy workers responded that they had experienced racial abuse from a colleague over the same period.
Sadly, it seems clear that racism in pharmacy is still very much a reality. C+D spoke to some of the sector’s biggest organisations to investigate what they have been doing to tackle the problem.
Click on the links below to jump to each pharmacy body’s response:
- RPS: Commitment to being anti-racist organisation
- PDA: “Fighting inequality one of the reasons we exist as an organisation”
- NPA: “Taking practical steps” as an employer
- UKBPA: We provide a voice to those that feel unable to speak up
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) head of professional belonging, Amandeep Doll, told C+D that the organisation’s five-year strategy for 2021-26 outlines its ambitions to both internally and externally improve race equality.
The body has “seen the positive impact on these through the increased diversity in the RPS national boards with having our first black pharmacists being elected on to the English and Scottish Boards”, she added.
The RPS published its anti-racism statement “to set out our commitment as a professional leadership body, to being an anti-racist organisation, and setting an example for the profession”, Ms Doll told C+D.
Other steps taken include:
- establishing an equality impact assessment process to ensure RPS products are "accessible for all and do not unfairly disadvantage different groups”
- establishing a new process for the RPS Fellows “to remove barriers to be nominated and be awarded an RPS fellowship”
- making changes to its recruitment process to anonymise applicants
- launching an annual equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) survey to collect data on membership “to ensure the RPS is representing the diversity of the profession”.
Watch last year’s C+D webinar: Racism in pharmacy – what’s changed and what’s next?
According to the RPS’ ethnicity pay gap – now reported yearly – the median pay gap between its white and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees in April 2021 stood at 10.7%, compared to 11.7% in April 2020. This is, however, “a work in progress and we want to reduce it further”, Ms Doll stressed.
The body also recognises that its “senior leadership team is still not representative of our profession, and we are working with our executive team to ensure inclusion and diversity is a core theme throughout the organisation”, she added.
“This is collective problem that we all need to be responsible for dealing with. There is also a challenge of people thinking it’s not their problem, or [not] recognising there is a problem and how this relates to them being a pharmacist,” she noted.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) told C+D that it is “hard-coded into our constitution that one of our objectives is to ‘promote equality for all and to eliminate all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination’”.
Fighting inequality, “is literally one of the reasons we exist as an organisation”, they added. “Equality is not something extra that we do as an add-on to our main function, it is embedded throughout the PDA.”
“We’ve undertaken considerable other activity to promote EDI in pharmacy,” a spokesperson for the PDA told C+D, which has included “awareness raising, education, and producing resources”.
The union’s work to tackle inequality “is both reactive and proactive”, they said, with reactive activity including responding to consultations to identify changes needed to remove potential inequality and supporting members who have been subject to discrimination. This can range from confidential advice to legal support for court action.
Activities carried out by the union’s four EDI networks – the National Association of Women Pharmacists, the BAME Network, Disabled Pharmacists Network (Ability Network) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pharmacists Network (LGBT+ Network) – also form part of its proactive work.
A spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) told C+D that the organisation “condemns racism in any form, whether it be pharmacy customers abusing staff or discrimination within the workplace, and all other ways in which people can be disadvantaged on the basis of prejudice relating to ethnicity and colour”.
As “active participants” on NHS England and NHS Improvement’s (NHSE&I) joint national plan for Inclusive Pharmacy Practice, “we are committed to the concepts of inclusivity, diversity and equality”, they said.
As an employer, the NPA is also planning “a number of practical steps to promote equality, diversity and inclusion”, they told C+D, with its head of advice and support, Jasmine Shah, leading an internal working group to co-ordinate activities.
Since it was established in 2018, the UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA) – founded to promote and support the interests of UK pharmacists, trainee pharmacists and pharmacy students who identify as black – three of its members have been elected to an RPS board, with several others holding leadership positions with the PDA.
Aiming to create practical solutions to the current inequalities faced by black pharmacists in the UK, in the last four years the UKBPA has collaborated with the RPS, NHSE&I, and the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association, among others, to support initiatives making the profession more inclusive and its leadership more ethnically diverse.
“For the first time, we exhibited at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress (CPC) in May 2022,” a spokesperson for the organisation told C+D.
“We are happy to say that we have gained new allies and members thanks to the conversations and interactions at the CPC. Our organisation is unique because it is action-driven,” they added.
By continuing to listen to the concerns of its members, “particularly those facing racial discrimination”, they said, the organisation’s future efforts will focus on:
- mentoring members,
- promoting development and engagement opportunities
- highlighting the causes of racial discrimination
- providing a voice to those that feel unable to speak up.
“With time, we hope that our actions will encourage members and allies to hold to account those that continue using racial discrimination as a divisive instrument in our profession”, the UKBPA added.
“More importantly, we hope that our actions, leadership and activism, will empower members to reach their full potential”.