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Half of BAME pharmacy workers have faced racism from a colleague

African respondents reported a high level of racial abuse from colleagues
African respondents reported a high level of racial abuse from colleagues

56% of pharmacy workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have suffered racial abuse from a colleague in the last six months, a C+D survey can reveal.

A C+D survey of racism in pharmacy that ran from June 18 to July 27 and featured responses from 886 pharmacy professionals, found that 56% of pharmacy workers who identified as being from a BAME background have experienced racial abuse from a colleague in the last six months.

Of the respondents who identified as white, 31% said they have experienced racial abuse from a colleague in the last six months.

Respondents who identified as being African reported a high level of racial abuse from colleagues, with 67% saying they had been subject to racism from co-workers.

Meanwhile, 61% of respondents who identified as Pakistani said they had experienced racism from a colleague over the past six months, while 49% of respondents from an Indian background said the same.

One BAME respondent even said they had “moved out of pharmacy as a result of racism”. Another said that covert racism “occurs all the time”.

“Explicit racial abuse”

Of BAME respondents, 46% said they had experienced “verbal” racial abuse from colleagues, while 15% said they had experienced “other” types of abuse from colleagues.

One example of this was “politically slanted jibes against Israel”, targeted at a Jewish pharmacy worker.

Another respondent said they had experienced colleagues not wanting to touch the same items as them, and “not wanting [them] to progress”.

Other examples given were: bullying; hostility; innuendos; exclusion; microaggression; systemic racism; being prevented from praying or made fun of when going to pray; being on the receiving end of racist jokes or the use of outdated terms; being the only person to “need a body search” and being told that “you Muslims are backwards”.

However, this is not an exhaustive list. C+D received a long list of examples of racial abuse from colleagues that pharmacy workers had experienced.

Ignored, scrutinised and “treated as intellectually inferior”

When asked about the types of racial discrimination they had faced from colleagues, the most common answer among those who had encountered some kind of discrimination was  “assumptions made about ability, character or behaviour”.

The infographic above shows the percentage of all respondents who checked each box.

Just over a third of all respondents, 35%, selected this from a list of options, with respondents able to choose as many options as they felt applicable. “Assumptions made about ability, character or behaviour” was also the most common selection among BAME respondents, with four in 10 (42%) choosing this option. Among respondents from an African background, this figure rose to 58%.

For respondents who identified as being from an Arab background, religious discrimination was the type of racism most commonly encountered from colleagues, with 55% of respondents in this group saying they had faced this. This compares to 16% of all survey respondents. Similarly, a higher proportion (41%) of Pakistani respondents had experienced religious discrimination from team members. Both groups highlighted being discriminated against for being Muslim.

The other types of racism from colleagues most frequently selected by survey respondents overall were: derogatory comments; lower levels of empathy; being ignored; being excessively scrutinised and being treated as an intellectual inferior.

Have you experienced racial abuse from a colleague while working in a pharmacy?

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

One of the problems is that as a baseline, employers in community pharmacy are very dismissive of any type of employee concern. BAME pharmacy workers will therefore have to navigate an already very unsympathetic management culture.

Of course many of the employers will now scramble to create paperwork that offers a veneer of concern for BAME workers, in practice very little will change.

This all seems counter-intuitive, BAME workers represent a high percentage of the pharmacist workforce and so you would expect consequences for the employers. The problem is organising these numbers into a cohesive force that will force change. In my opinion, the only practical option is unionisation through the PDA and all members joining together to demand change.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is a problem pharmacy has faced ever since I jumped on the train (Wish I'd known beforehand that it was going to crash though.) - there has never been a united voice representing PHARMACISTS. There are bodies which represent PHARMACY (NPA,PSNC etc) but they never have the pharmacist at the heart of the argument even though we are the pivotal part of the whole operation - for the moment, no pharmacist = no pharmacy.  Even amongst individuals there is no co-operation. I think it stems from the fact that we very much work apart from our fellows - how often do we ever actually see another pharmacist? I've never been a great one for unions (bit leftie for me) but I agree that I think they are the only way of protecting pharmacist interests.

As regards BAME, you are quite right to say it adds an extra level of complexity when it comes to complaints. I, as a white locum, wouldn't be confident complaining because I'd be afraid for any future work and this must be multiplied many times for anyone from a BAME background.

Just as an aside, what do you think of the term BAME? It seems far too broad a brush to me - you can't lump everyone who is not Caucasian British into one group, and for all it's leftie woke credentials, I think the term is inherently racist because it is exactly the same as saying 'not white'. For example, a Bulgarian over here would be considered BAME and yet racism towards black people is VASTLY worse in Eastern Europe than here.  

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

It's a sad time when we have to get the union involved in order for them to stamp out racism. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Agreed. I don't get racist attitudes. Yes, there are plenty of people in the world I don't like but NEVER based on the colour of their skin (although the colour of Donald Trump's skin is quite amusing sometimes) - it's always based on actions. As an example - I love cricket so I have always supported the Windies Cricket team because I remember them in the 70s and how they played and acted and I think Jason Holder is an absolute example to anyone of how to behave. Ian Botham on the other hand I consider a total idiot because of his actions and his support for killing things for fun. I know this sounds like I'm trivialising but to me, actions are all that matters.


Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

All I ask is we are treated the same as the white folk. We all bleed red blood when we are cut. just be Kind that's all I ask


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is how it should be. Skin colour should be an irrelevance (I find it very ironic that the typical beer-bellied racist bloke is also the typical 'fortnight in Benidorm' type who boasts about their tan). It's fine to not like a black or Asian or Chinese or whatever person, just the same as it is OK to not like a white person, but based on who they are not how much pigment they have. I've met some people of all races that I haven't got along with, just as I have met plenty from all races that I HAVE got along with. It's the person that counts.

Racism is something that harks back to the most primitive part of human evolution, when we were divided up into tribes and defending your own patch was a matter of life and death and all other people were your enemy, trying to take what was yours. Nowadays that doesn't hold true but the primitive part is still there and you can't even say it is unintelligent people who are the ones who let it surface. Racism is throughout all sections of our society and if anything, seems worse at the top than the bottom.


Robert Mitchell, Community pharmacist

I've never personally witnessed this (I am a white British cis heterosexual male) but I find these findings absolutely abhorrent but unsurprising unfortunately.

I have witnessed, and pulled up, staff "having banter" and treating Eastern European pharmacists differently so I have no doubts this is happening, and dare I say more than has been revealed.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I agree with you - I have come across far more racist attitudes towards Polish, Romanian, etc pharmacists (strangely never the Spanish ones) that I ever have towards black or Asian ones. What I have heard though is that its 'nice to see a white face in here for a change' which is a comment which is difficult to call out without seeming aggressive.

Incidentally, is 'cis' the opposite of 'trans' (same as in chemistry) as in you were born with a willy? I struggle with all these different right-on terms nowadays.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

I've had shifts cancelled on me even when I've arrived and started work, been told to go home! That was by a shoe shop. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

What excuse did they give you? Surely they still had to pay you because of the lack of notice?

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

the agency that has T€AM in its name. I've been even black listed by them  they let this slip to me by accident!

Tom Kennedy, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

OMG that's awful, shall we asume that in their notes it says 'Hard working individual, not lazy in the slightest, always turns up on time for shifts, never sits down glued to their phone while there's work to do however must blacklist due to BAME status'.

You need to get a copy of this report and bring this agency to justice.



Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Got to say, Tom, your attitude does you no credit whatsoever, but then again, you claim to be an area manager and a rancid attitude is a prerequisite for that.

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Your dismissive attitude makes you the problem

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Tom Kennedy, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager- in response to you:


Anybody that knows me and has worked with me will say I work my bollocks off at work, never take a dinner break (I’m weird i don’t eat during the day!), never sit-down, never take a cig break (don’t smoke) I'm always early have been known to arrive 1+ hour early if I’m travelling more than 20 miles away (this is my work ethic, don’t like being late), I do as many MURs as I can, and NMS signups, flu jabs, I always put the patients first even if it puts me out myself.  I have been known to stay alone with a patient (unpaid) when everybody else has gone because a hospital/OOH has prescribed the wrong medication/dose and I didn’t want the patient to come to harm until I had clarification about dose etc. yes you can assume  their notes it says 'Hard working individual, not lazy in the slightest, always turns up on time for shifts, never sits down glued to their phone while there's work to do however must blacklist due to BAME status'


Oh BTW I do NOT answer my phone whilst at work, usually far to busy sorting the the bomb site Ive walked into, I don’t have time to scratch my @ss.

BTW your the sort of white privilege I’m always up against!


I have a feeling I may have even come across you, ?working in Swindon/Bristol, are you the Tech (Micky house qualification) that has been crowned area manager on peanuts for a salary, always wear a cheap suite from River Island that just about fits you?


Racism is a reality in pharamcy my friends, all you need to do is look at the pay rates, and company structures as ethnic minorities have embarked on this ‘profession’ they have been exploited  and rates havr plummeted, who in leadership positions do you know of that reflects the shop floor, they are all white!!


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Sadly, answering racism with cheap insults isn't going to solve the problem. It just lowers you from the moral high ground.

Also, locum rates plunged for white locums as well. Locumism is just as rife in pharmacy.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

You can poke a bear so much, eventually it will snap and bite

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Fair enough.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Genuinely thought pharmacy was better than this.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

White privilege is a FACT!

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

You must be living on another planet pal!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wish I was sometimes......

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Both direct and non direct racism is a fact. I've seen it at all pharmacy chains! Even seen it and some independents.....

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Never seen DIRECT racism, but plenty of racism when the person being talked about isn't around, to both black and white (EU) pharmacists. Never between existing staff, oddly enough, only with people coming in from outside.

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