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Your accounts of racism in pharmacy make for painful reading

By Carolyn Scott

26 Jun 2020

I’ve just read a comment given by someone in response to the Pharmacist’s Racism and BAME health survey. It has floored me, and I think what was said is worth taking a minute to absorb:

‘I was called racist names like Paki, and then accused of being racist myself for not reordering the person’s prescription automatically just because he was ‘white’. Another incidence just yesterday, when I asked a customer to social distance between customers and told that, just because he was black, I didn’t treat everyone the same. Just fed up in pharmacy at the moment and overwhelmed and exhausted after giving our all.’

What’s described doesn’t sound like the ideal working day, does it; far from it. It’s all the more poignant, given the monumental service that all pharmacy teams have given to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you to the person who was prepared to share this, and for everyone else who took part in the survey and told us about their own experiences.

Our survey asked about racism in community pharmacy, along with asking some questions about BAME health. Is there racism in community pharmacy? We didn’t know the answer, but it seemed a reasonable question to ask given the current focus on these issues, and the diversity of the pharmacy workforce.

Sadly, from what you’ve told us, there does seem to be an ongoing problem.

Dealing with patients daily can’t be easy, and I’m sure that those in the pharmacy team quickly develop a resilience to people’s impatience and occasional rudeness. But, being called names? Being threatened? Being on the receiving end of violence? This can’t be acceptable in a workplace, or anywhere else for that matter.

People also told us about their concerns about more subtle racism – where someone has questioned their clinical expertise, or even refused to be served by them, based on the colour of their skin. Some also said they have experienced racism from fellow team members. Indeed, what you’ve told us has made for difficult reading.

It’s clear, of course, that this is a problem that can no longer be brushed under the carpet. The swell of awareness prompted by Black Lives Matter has reached worldwide. With this increased awareness, the UK’s pharmacy profession must take the opportunity to act quickly, to make sure that the issue of racism is tackled head-on and that community pharmacy is a safe, tolerant and rewarding place to work for all.

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