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COVID-19: How to protect BAME staff in anticipation of a second wave

C+D spoke to Dr Mahendra Patel about the risk assessments required to protect BAME pharmacy staff


NHS England and Improvement has asked community pharmacy contractors to complete COVID-19 risk assessments for black and Asian ethnic minority (BAME) employees and other at-risk groups in the next few weeks.

In C+D’s latest podcast, clinical editor Naimah Callachand spoke to C+D clinical advisory board member, Dr Mahendra Patel – a pharmacist and academic.

Dr Patel describes how employers “need to be doing everything they can in terms of risk assessments. There should also be "an awareness of cultural sensitivities when discussing risk assessments with staff,” he adds. He highlights the importance of promoting cultural awareness and openness within the pharmacy.

Also discussed was the role of pharmacy in protecting BAME communities. Dr Patel says community engagement through service provision may be a way for “pharmacy to lead the way to address issues around health inequalities within the deprived communities.”

You can listen to the podcast below. Alternatively, subscribe to C+D's podcasts on iTunes or by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred Android podcast app.

Please note, the sound quality of this podcast may be affected as it has been recorded remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak

See who else is on C+D’s clinical advisory board.

To keep up with the latest updates for community pharmacy visit our COVID-19 hub.


Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

I am of the opinion that with regards to COVID 19 and BAME a great opportunity is being missed in focussing, albeit with justification, on keeping that population safe. Has no-one asked the question "WHY does the BAME population get a disproportionate amount of deaths from COVID 19? " Is there some biochemical system that makes a south Asian pharmacist peculiarly susceptible to COVID 19, that the rest of the population lack? There are other examples of  races having enzyme systems that are different to the rest of the world, the East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans) lack aldehyde dehydrogenase and thus get a flushing if they drink alcohol. 
As well as keeping the BAME population safe in the current outbreak, we should be looking at what makes them different in order that we might get some insight into fighting this virus.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Fair enough and quite right, but the time for this is not NOW. The risk assessment includes ALL vulnerable groups and the headline of this article should reflect that rather than purely the BAME angle. As far as I'm aware, the route of transmission doesn't differentiate between skin colours. It's once it's inside the body that the problems are potentially different. Therefore, if you put measures in place which protect one person in the workplace, you protect EVERYONE and that's how it should be. Equality is what is needed right now. The time for studies into differences is when this is over, we have all the data and we can do all of the tests because the reasons are far more complex than lack of vitamin d or enzyme differences - social attitudes, trust, lifestyle, all of these things will play a part.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Why is the headline of all these articles focused on the BAME staff when the risk assessment applies to all? Is C + D buffing up it's woke credentials? There is absolutely no difference in protecting a BAME person as protecting any other - we are all people, we all catch it the same way. Yes, I understand the higher death rate among BAME but if you don't catch it you can't die of it.

All this is moot anyway cos if we get a second wave like the first, society is buggered.

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