The majority of racial abuse and discrimination that happens in community pharmacy goes unreported, the Pharmacist survey of pharmacy professionals has found.

Three-quarters (75%) of the 157 survey respondents who answered the question said that they did not report a racist incident which occurred in the pharmacy over the last 12 months to management or the police. Out of these, almost half (49%) didn’t tell anyone and kept quiet about their experience.

For those respondents who witnessed or faced racist abuse or discrimination, almost all of that abuse was verbal (98%). And most of the abuse was coming from the public (75%).

The Pharmacist survey ran from 11 to 26 June 2020, and asked pharmacy team members about their experience of racism in the workplace. It also covered how pharmacy team members felt about the treatment of BAME staff, and protecting their health, during Covid-19.

Some pharmacy team members shared their experiences of racist abuse and discrimination.

One respondent, who chose to remain anonymous, explained their recent experience of racist abuse from a member of the public: ‘A customer asked me where I was from because apparently he ‘could not understand a word I was saying’; when I told him my country of origin he rolled his eyes and said ‘well that makes sense’. He then proceeded to mock me about a few stereotypical behaviours attributed to my country, after which he said ‘thank God for Brexit, you lot will go back where you came from’.

The respondent told the Pharmacist that they didn’t report this case of abuse.

Another respondent spoke of their experience of racism and discrimination from a fellow member of the pharmacy team: ‘A staff member ‘jokingly’ told me that in my photo ID, I looked like a terrorist. Another staff member told me: ‘If you ever want to scare off a rude customer just speak to them in your language and they’ll be terrified’.

Much racist abuse goes unreported because victims are told to ‘stay quiet and not complain’, explained Elsy Gomez Campos, president of The UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA).

’I've worked in pharmacy for over 20 years, and for as long as I kept quiet and never complained about racial discrimination, I was fine.

‘As soon as I spoke out about racism, I became a victim of abuse,’ she said.

This, Ms Gomez Campos says, is where the problem lies and is one of the reasons why racism and discrimination are prevalent in pharmacy.

‘We never talk about racism in pharmacy. I have never seen or heard of a line manager discuss it with their team. I’ve never in my 20 years in pharmacy had a line manager come up to me and ask what my experience of being a black woman in pharmacy is like.

Much more discussion about racial inequalities is needed, she argues.

‘We need to talk about racism and discrimination openly and make it normal to talk about; in the same way, people in pharmacies talk about health issues, we need to talk about racial inequalities. That is when we will start to see real change'.

Read Mohammed Hussain's opinion piece on his experience of racism in the pharmacy sector.