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BAME Pharmacists’ Network – July 2020

Welcome to the first issue of the BAME newsletter - the quarterly mailing that keeps you up-to-date on news, events and issues that relate to Black, Asian and minority ethnic pharmacists.

Sun 19th July 2020 The PDA

BAME Pharmacists’ Network July Update

Welcome to the latest PDA BAME Pharmacists’ Network update. In this issue, we reveal the findings of a recent BAME survey into risk assessments and PPE during the coronavirus pandemic, plus find out more about the recent experiences of your BAME pharmacist colleagues.  

If you would like to share your story, or if you have a key topic that you feel we should include in a future mailing, please email your thoughts to: We welcome all feedback.

Please also feel free to share this mailing with a colleague that would like to read it.

BAME COVID-19 risk assessment and PPE survey

We recently ran a survey to examine the experience of pharmacists relating to risk assessment and the use of PPE, with a particular interest in the treatment of those such as BAME pharmacists, who have been shown to be at increased risk of COVID-related harm.

The BAME network were the first to complete the survey before it went out to the wider membership. Thank you to those of you that completed the survey.

In terms of unfair allocation of higher risk duties at work compared with colleagues of similar job profiles, the majority of respondents were unsure of the reason. In the case where a reason was known or speculated about, the graph below indicates the reasons.

Alima Batchelor, Head of Policy at the PDA said “The PDA are pleased with the response from BAME members but we can see that there is much work to be done around managing risk in pharmacy and in terms of addressing discrimination. These issues in the workplace are active issues in which the PDA is representing the concerns of pharmacists and we are working to improve conditions at work. The responses to the survey will help inform our activity.”

A Black Pharmacy Student Experience 

Black Pharmacists Collective’s (BPC) Primary Care & Hospital Executive, Tsariye Doro, gives insight into aspects of the Black undergraduate experience in pharmacy and shares BPC’s thoughts on some issues.

Black in Pharmacy

As Black Pharmacists Collective (BPC), we have had recurrent discussions relating to our lack of exposure to Black pharmacists. In our 3 years on the MPharm, we have not encountered a Black pharmacist [on placement] or know any Black course mates who have. Of course, as the minority of the minority, we can understand why.

I have spent years in community pharmacy and encountered only one Black pharmacist. I know of Black pharmacists, only because of my dad and his friends, but those without such exposure have little reflection of themselves in pharmacy.

Being Black in the workplace, I navigate through a maze of uncertainties which I cannot imagine going into without previous exposure, yet many must.

Public Health England (PHE)

PHE’s report (Disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19) lacked detail, especially regarding why there were such stark differences in acquiring COVID-19 for BAME individuals compared to White counterparts. Health disparities have long plagued the Black community and this has come across as another instance of a statement with no background or solution.

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

The BLM movement has highlighted to society what Black people already knew. Racism is not always deliberate or explicit. It comes from aggressions which reinforce the notion that we occupy space which was never meant for us. The foundation of the system cannot be escaped when it presents in daily life. From experience, a teacher could not pronounce my name and so refused to use it.

There is scope for major change in society so Black people can find themselves on level ground and everyone needs to do their part.

Find out more about the Black Pharmacists Collective here.

The importance of becoming conscious of unconscious bias. 

By Elsy Gomez Campos, Hospital pharmacist, locum and member of the PDA Union’s South East Regional Committee.

Working as pharmacists when you are black and foreigner is a challenge. Having an accent, speaking broken English, being enthusiastic, outspoken, talking using my hands, facial expression and a variety of voice tone to express feelings have been used against me time and again to deny me of opportunities that I have earned with hard work. Being labelled a “Latina” because where I come from, have hurt my feelings. And it was devastating when my needs as mother of a very premature baby were disregarded.

All of the above I have experienced in the name of “unconscious bias”. The term is often used to explain the lack of black faces in leadership positions.

The reality is that we all have inherent or learned behaviours that favour what we like or are familiar with. As human beings, we learn to stereotype others without realising it.

We stereotype about everything; individuals, groups and institutions. But as we learn to be biased we also need to learn how to overcome it.

The result of unconscious bias is easy to perceive in the workplace. In our profession, it is even easier to see. And if you don’t, it is because you are a beneficiary of such practice.

Pharmacy teams and leaders must start educating themselves if we are ever going to become an inclusive profession. We must uproot practices that promote:

  • “Culture fit”(affinity bias)
  • Candidate selection based on the fact that they have an English name or attended a certain university (confirmation bias)
  • Judgement of individuals based on past behaviours (attribution bias)
  • Conformity weak behaviours that reaffirm all of the above (conformity bias)

I have been at the receiving end of all of the above and as a leader, I have challenged all of them and I paid the ultimate price: losing my job and being blacklisted by those that claim they are not racist or are not biased.

We must stop defending the undefendable to justify the unjustifiable.

In Pursuit of Excellence: My Pharmacy Journey

By Olutayo M Arikawe MRPharms FRSPH MSc (Public health) and Superintendent Pharmacist

It was late September 2005 when I bade farewell to my family (in Nigeria) to sojourn to a place where I have never been nor do I know anyone, the UK. I went from the airport straight to Aston University in Birmingham for the conversion course for overseas pharmacies, OSPAP.  Night after night I called my mum to tell her I was sorry to have disappointed her as I was not sure I could pass the course. I simply could not understand some of the lecturers. She kept assuring me things would improve. Finally, I sought help from one of my lecturers and applied the same principle to other courses.

I started my pre-reg role (also my first job in the UK) in a busy store where I was the only black person. It was quite challenging.

Picking up the phone was an issue as patients sometimes ask to speak to someone else due to my accent. I’m grateful for peer to peer support.

My journey as a pharmacist has been quite interesting for me. I started as a relief manager followed by the manager, then cluster-lead manager for Lloyds pharmacy. I worked as a locum in different companies. I started working for the YPG Project in 2012 after being rejected in 2007 by the same company (I was persistent in my desire to work for them).

Pharmacy is full of opportunities with many, great supportive people. Young pharmacists shouldn’t be intimidated to ask for support from older/experienced colleagues irrespective of their background.

Read more about the lack of diversity in pharmacy leadership here.

My Student Experience

By Osariemen Egharevba-Buckman, PDA Student Representative and BPSA National Representative

During the pandemic, we learned that black men are four times more likely to die from COVID-19. There are other disproportionate risks outlined in the PHE research report on the BAME community.

This has been a very challenging period to live through emotionally, whilst as a pharmacy student, still having to be in constant examination mode, it has impacted on both my mental health and educational focus.

As a black student it feels like tomorrow is never promised for many of us, we struggle to succeed despite being discriminated against because of the colour of our skin.

From the big cases to everyday issues, including the pass rates in pharmacy for students, and in everyday society, it feels like just one example after another.

During the peak of the pandemic, some of my family members have been affected by COVID-19. At times it has felt to me like black people are just dying all the time; cases such as Belly Mujinga and George Floyd exemplify how much some black people have to suffer, this has been difficult to process for the majority of us.

Having an African heritage, I was given a name that reflected it, yet in all areas of life it seems no-one ever respects this. Some people say, ‘Let’s give you a nickname’ or ask ‘Is there an easier version we can say?’ Why not try to learn my name, how about that? Why not try to understand the differences that make us who we are?

The colour of my skin is not the defining factor of my life yet that is what the world has made it to be. We must let people know about who we are and what we stand for and work with those who want to work with us to make life better, together.

Find out how you can become a PDA rep here.

Would you like to share your story?

If you would like to share your story with us to appear in a future BAME update, please email:

What is race discrimination?

Outlined simply, race discrimination is when you are treated differently because of your race in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act. The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy based on race. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.

  • Direct discrimination  this happens when someone treats you worse than another person in a similar situation because of your race.
  • Indirect discrimination  is when an organisation has a particular policy or way of working that puts people of your racial group at a disadvantage.
  • Harassment  this occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded. Harassment can never be justified. However, if an organisation or employer can show it did everything it could to prevent people who work for it from behaving like that, you will not be able to make a claim for harassment against it, although you could make a claim against the harasser.
  • Victimisation – this is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint of race-related discrimination under the Equality Act for example.
Mark Pitt, Director of Defence Services at the PDA said: “If a member feels that they have been discriminated against because of their race, or any other protected characteristic, then it is important to take advice from the PDA legal team as soon as possible, there are strict time limits for these type of matters.”

You can contact the PDA team by calling our advice helpline on 0121 694 7000 or by emailing


Allyship is about working towards creating diverse and inclusive communities and by standing up for the rights of those who are marginalised. Those not part of the BAME community can still support this group and make the effort to understand their struggle; use the voice of the BAME community alongside their own.

David Tyas, a Pharmacist Advisor at the PDA, shares why he became a BAME ally:

“I decided to become an Ally having seen first hand examples of discrimination against pharmacists with protected characteristics during the disciplinary and grievance meetings I have represented our members in around the country for the PDA since 2009. I want to support our members by giving advice, guidance and representation when they need it most.”


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