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Only a third of pharmacy employers have risk-assessed teams, PDA finds

Just 27% of risk assessments took ethnicity, age and long-term health conditions into account
Just 27% of risk assessments took ethnicity, age and long-term health conditions into account

Just over at third (36%) of pharmacy employers have carried out a risk assessment of their team for COVID-19, a recent Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) survey has revealed.

The survey, which drew respondents from 745 pharmacists in a range of sectors, but with “the majority” in community pharmacy, also found that a similar percentage (39%) reported that their employer had given individual pharmacists a risk assessment.

Of the risk assessments carried out, less than a third (27%) had taken factors such as ethnicity, age and long-term health conditions into account, according to the survey, which the PDA said had a “particular focus on the treatment of BAME pharmacists”.

Of those who responded to the survey, 52% were white, 32% Asian, 11% black, 2% of mixed ethnicity and 3% of “other” ethnic origin. Closer to half (44%) said their employer had carried out a risk assessment of the pharmacy premises.

Last month, a Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey found that 70% of pharmacy workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds had yet to receive a COVID-19 risk assessments from their employers, despite the fact that BAME groups have been found to be at increased risk of COVID-19.

In a letter last month (June 24), NHS England and Improvement asked community pharmacy contractors to complete COVID-19 risk assessments for BAME employees and other at-risk groups within four weeks

Lack of PPE training 

As many as 40% of respondents to the survey, which looked at risk assessments and the use of PPE, said they had not “received any training on the correct use of PPE”, while just over one in 10 (12%) said they had been “actively discouraged” from wearing PPE by their employer. A similar number (13%) had been asked to reuse PPE at work, while 5% said their employer did not provide any PPE.

Seven out of 10 respondents (70%) said that between staff and patients, the two-metre social distancing rule in place at the time was being enforced by their employer. However, just under half (46%) reported that this was the case when it came to maintaining distance between staff members in spaces such as breakout areas and canteens.

“Anxious” about COVID-19 

Close to 60% of those who took part in the survey said they felt “anxious” about the potential COVID-19 danger while at work. Just over half of respondents (53%) reported that their employer had offered health and wellbeing support during the pandemic.

Asked about discrimination, 6% said they had heard a colleague make “derogatory or inflammatory” remarks about the ethnicity of a patient or another member of staff since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Where this had occurred, the majority (62%) felt the situation had been dealt with in a “good” or “very good” way by management. However, in a fifth of cases (20%), respondents said the handling had been “barely acceptable”, while 12% said the response from management had been “poor” or “very poor”.

Head of policy at the PDA Alima Batchelor said the organisation was “pleased with the response from BAME members” but that there is still “much work to be done around managing risk in pharmacy and in terms of addressing discrimination”.

These are issues where the PDA is “representing the concerns of pharmacists and working to improve conditions”, she said, adding that the survey results would serve to “inform” this.

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