PHE report delayed on how ethnicity affects COVID-19 outcomes

Public Health England (PHE) has missed its 31 May deadline for reporting on how factors including ethnicity, gender and obesity affect outcomes in patients and NHS staff infected with COVID-19.

COVID-19 test: PHE report on risk factors delayed (Photo: Taechit Taechamanodom/Getty Images)
COVID-19 test: PHE report on risk factors delayed (Photo: Taechit Taechamanodom/Getty Images)

The government announced early last month that PHE would publish a ‘rapid report’ by the end of May amid rising concerns over the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

All but one of 12 GP or GP trainees who have died to date during the pandemic are from BAME backgrounds - and research has suggested that people from the BAME community have been two to three times more likely to die from coronavirus during the pandemic.

Prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs on 20 May that the analysis would be complete at the end of May - after confirming that the deaths of more than 300 NHS staff had been reported involving COVID-19.

COVID-19 report

GPonline reported last week that PHE could fall short of the deadline - which has now passed. PHE said it was ‘peer reviewing and taking final comments from stakeholders prior to publication’.

Doctors have demanded urgent publication of the report 'with a clear action plan' on how it will be used to protect patients and healthcare professionals in vulnerable groups.

Doctors Association UK chair Dr Rinesh Parmar said: 'We’ve seen the devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on so many families across the UK. The disproportionate effect on BAME communities and staff in our health and social care sectors has been extremely troubling.

'We urgently need the findings to be published with a clear action plan as to how we will take steps to safeguard vulnerable groups. The simple act of completing risk assessments is not enough if actions aren’t taken to protect those that are vulnerable.'

BAME impact

Sky News has reported on Whitehall sources claiming publication of the PHE review was being delayed to avoid inflaming tensions amid worldwide anger over the death of George Floyd - although the government has denied this.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson, said: 'Ministers received initial findings yesterday. They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week. It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events.'

The delay in publication of the review follows the death of GP trainee Dr Abdorreza Sedghi with COVID-19 - the eleventh GP or trainee GP from a BAME background to die with the virus during the pandemic.

The review, led by PHE public health director for London Professor Kevin Fenton, will assess thousands of patient records for people who have been infected with the virus as well as available data on health outcomes for NHS staff.

The impact of deprivation and age will also be considered as PHE aims to develop 'more robust data on the factors impacting the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population' and to ‘inform action to mitigate the risks it presents’.

GP practices were told to risk-assess members of the workforce from BAME backgrounds at the end of April. Updated guidance on how practices can mitigate the risk to staff from COVID-19 was issued last week.

The BMA has warned that GP practices have not received sufficient practical advice on protecting at-risk staff in the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving staff facing a 'postcode lottery' as approaches vary regionally. Other doctors' groups have also called for faster action to protect BAME staff against the risks of COVID-19.

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