There needs to be more diverse pharmacists in senior roles across national public health bodies, hospital administration and wider government to achieve equality in the pharmacy sector, an MP has said.  

Speaking at the Pharmacy Show at the NEC in Birmingham yesterday (October 17), Taiwo Owatemi — a pharmacist and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities minister — spoke of the inequality that still exists in the pharmacy sector despite it appearing diverse and what must be done to tackle it. 

‘BAME people working across pharmacy are not equally distributed across pay grades especially in high position compared to their caucasian counterparts who are more likely to be in positions of authority, or more likely to be shortlisted for jobs when they apply for them,’ said Ms Owatemi.

‘BAME pharmacists are relatively more likely to enter into formal disciplinary measures. At university, about 15% of BAME students receive lower grades compared to their counterparts.’ 

To tackle this, Ms Owatemi said there should be more diversity in senior leadership roles.  

‘I want to see more diverse pharmacists occupy senior roles in national public health bodies, hospital administration and Government,’ she said. 

Recruitment is not enough 

Ms Owatemi added that ‘to the outside world’ it may appear that diversity is a ‘non-issue’ within pharmacy because there is diversity and representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities within the sector.  

However, she said: ‘Being able to recruit a diverse network of pharmacists is not enough. 

‘Just because the field has diversity and cohesion does not mean that it is without inequality.’ 

According to the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA), over 50% of registered pharmacists in the UK are from within the BAME community. 

Despite this, she praised the PDA’s diversity groups, including the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (PDA BAME) Pharmacists Network, which was launched last April to focus on issues relevant to pharmacists of these ethnicities.  

 To help remedy the existing inequality, Ms Owatemi said she hopes these network groups will ‘go a long way’ in providing platforms to advance equality in the pharmacy sector and wider healthcare.  

‘Pharmacists have a wealth of transferable skills, not just in the medical profession, but in regard to organisation, communication and distribution. Those skills, alongside help from the PDA networks on how pharmacists can use these, will help to tackle in inequalities we have,’ she said. .’  

Last year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RBS) and UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) have called on the government to provide more support for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pharmacy team members.  

This came after seven pharmacy team members died after contracting Covid-19; six of whom came from BAME backgrounds.