How have pharmacy employers assessed and supported safety in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic?  

Nearly 60% of those who responded to the survey feel anxious about the threat of COVID-19 whilst at work. Please see below for information about how employers have responded and for PDA members’ experiences at work.

Wed 15th July 2020 The PDA

Thank you to everybody who completed the PDA’s recent survey examining the experience of pharmacists relating to risk assessment and the use of PPE during the pandemic. The survey had a particular focus on the treatment of BAME pharmacists, who have been shown to be at increased risk of COVID-19-related harm. The BAME network were the first to complete the survey before it went out to the wider membership. 

We received 745 responses to the survey, which was completed by a cross-section of pharmacists of different ages, working across a variety of sectors, but with the majority in community pharmacy. Over 70% of the respondents were female, which reflects the fact that a higher number of women than men work as pharmacists, as shown in the Centre for Pharmacy Workforce Studies’ (CPWS) General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) Register Analysis 2011 paper. 

Regarding ethnic origin, the respondents were: Black 11%, Asian 32%, Mixed ethnic origin 2%, Other ethnic origin 3%and White 52%. Interestingly, our survey had a higher response from BAME pharmacists and a lower response from White pharmacists than the diversity analysis indicated in the GPWS GPhC Register Analysis 2011 paper. For example, 5.4% of pharmacists in 2011 were Black according to the Register, but more than double that figure completed the PDA’s survey. 

Nearly 60% of those who responded to the survey feel anxious about the threat of COVID-19 whilst at work. Please see below for information about how employers have responded and for PDA members’ experiences at work:  

Employer support and risk assessments  

  • 53% of employers offered health and wellbeing support during the COVID-19 crisis 
  • Only 44% of employers had carried out risk assessments of the pharmacy premises 
  • Just 39% of employers had carried out risk assessments in relation to individual pharmacists 
  • 36% of employers had done a risk assessment of the pharmacy team 
  • Only 27% of the risk assessments took into account age, ethnicity and long-term health conditions 


  • 5% of employers did not provide any PPE 
  • 13% of pharmacists were asked to reuse PPE 
  • 12% of respondents had been actively discouraged from wearing PPE by their employer 
  • 40% of respondents had not received any training on the correct use of PPE 

Social distancing 

  • The 2-metre social distancing rule between staff and patients is enforced by 70% of employers 
  • Between staff members within staff areas such as canteens and break out areas, this figure drops to 46% 


In terms of unfair allocation of higher risk duties at work compared with colleagues of similar job profilesthe 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. 

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, 6% of PDA members have overheard colleagues making derogatory or inflammatory comments in relation to ethnicity of a patient or member of staff. In 62% of cases, the response from management was ‘good’ or ‘very good,’ whilst in 20% of cases the response was ‘barely acceptable,’ with 12% finding a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ response. 

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. 

The PDA is also critically aware that a formal inquiry is needed into how this pandemic has been managed, to learn and prepare for future pandemics, as well as to make improvements to how your safety at work is managed on an ongoing basis. 



The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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