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COVID-19: Well to make risk assessments available to staff

Well is carrying out risk assessment and ensuring its health messaging is culturally sensitive
Well is carrying out risk assessment and ensuring its health messaging is culturally sensitive

Well Pharmacy is making health risk assessments available to its teams to help protect them against COVID-19, it has said.

An initial questionnaire will be sent out to staff from this week and this will be used to inform where more in-depth risk assessments need to be carried out, the multiple told C+D last week (June 18).

A spokesperson for Well told C+D that there will be “no restrictions” on who the company carries out risk assessments on following the questionnaire responses. It could include black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) staff, people in other at-risk groups, or anyone whose responses indicate that their risk needs to be assessed more fully, the spokesperson said.

Well has sought advice and insight from Professor Mahendra Patel, a pharmacist and member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English pharmacy board and C+D’s clinical advisory board, to help it with the risk assessment process.

Carrying out risk assessments is not mandatory, but NHS has advised healthcare employers to do this for its teams, in part due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on NHS workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Risk assessments are also one of seven recommendations in a recent Public Health England report on understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups.

Improving health messaging

Well is the second multiple to seek the guidance of Professor Patel on risk assessment work and the protection of BAME staff. Earlier this month (June 8), Lloydspharmacy announced it was collaborating with him to help inform its strategy on reducing COVID-19-related risks for its BAME workforce.

As well as assisting with the risk assessment process, Well said that it would also be seeking Professor Patel’s input on how it can effectively reach out to “BAME and disadvantaged groups” with its health and wellbeing advice and services.

This will include ensuring that the multiple’s health messaging is culturally sensitive and improving data collection to “help towards reducing the prevailing health inequalities these groups face across the UK”.

BAME staff at Well will also be included in shaping the structure of the assessments and “in any specific actions we need to take to make sure our colleagues remain safe”, the multiple said.

Not “a tick box exercise”

Well pharmacy superintendent Janice Perkins said: “As a community pharmacy, we’re here for everyone in the community [and] we want to explore with Professor Patel what we can do differently and more effectively”.

Professor Patel said BAME communities “often have a different outlook on healthcare” and that “how you reach out and ask the right questions has to be carefully considered to make sure you get open and meaningful replies”.

“I would urge any company carrying out a risk assessment for their BAME colleagues to thoroughly consider their approach to make sure this doesn’t just turn into a tick box exercise,” he added.

Will your pharmacy be carrying out risk assessments?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Whilst I welcome the risk assessments I have to be critical of Well of their unfortunately typical slow response to issues. I would have expected a professional employer to have conducted a risk assessment of this nature many months beforehand. 

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Thankyou, Well, for recognising that risks are risks no matter what the cause. At this point in time, it doesn't matter exactly WHY BAME people are more affected. We don't have the time to do the necessary work to find out - it's too complicated and involves too many issues. That can come later. For the here and now, get the protections in place (not rocket science - it's a virus, we know pretty much how it's transmitted, how to break that cycle of transmission and how to kill it when it's outside the human body (oh ffs - just served someone who took their mask off to talk to me - cheers mate!!)) and then EVERYONE would benefit.

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