At the end of last month GP practices were told to risk assess staff from BAME backgrounds in light of mounting evidence that they were more likely to experience serious outcomes from COVID-19.
NHS Employers' guidance, which was first released in early April and covers risk assessment for all staff at greater risk from coronavirus, has been updated to include more information on how to assess the risk faced by BAME staff.
It highlights a number of resources that practices could use to help identify staff at risk, including a risk stratification tool developer by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), which is central to NHS Wales' strategy. However the guidance cautions that any risk stratification tool or score card should be 'used with care'.
'They help identify potential risks that need to be discussed further (normally with those with management responsibility) and support that discussion when it takes place,' the guidance says. 'Such tools must not replace the compassionate and considerate discussion between those managing services and the worker.'
The guidance stresses that discussions with affected staff must be central to employers' approach and that practices should regularly communicate with any staff identified as being at risk. Risk assessments should also be repeated when new information becomes available or if an individual requests a review.
Suggestions for how to mitigate risk include asking patients to wear masks when in contact with staff members, limiting duration of close interaction with patients and, where possible, maintaining a two-metre distance from patients. Practices could also consider making adjustments so that staff can avoid travelling on public transport in peak hours and work at home where possible.
BAME mortality risk
Research published earlier this month found that mortality risk from COVID-19 is two to three times higher for people from BAME groups compared with the general population. Among Pakistani groups, risk of death was 3.29 times higher - while Bangladeshi groups faced a 2.41 times higher risk, Black Caribbean groups 2.21 times higher and Indian groups a 1.7 times higher risk
Public Health England (PHE) is due to publish a report shortly into how factors including ethnicity, gender and obesity affect outcomes in patients and NHS staff infected with COVID-19. The report was due to be published by the end of this month, but PHE has been unable to confirm if it will meet this deadline.
Healthcare workers from BAME backgrounds have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Analysis by the Guardian shows that six in 10 UK health workers who have died as a result of COVID-19 are from BAME communities, accounting for 122 deaths. Of the 11 GPs who have died as a result of coronavirus, 10 are from BAME backgrounds.