PHE to report on how ethnicity, gender and obesity affect COVID-19 outcomes

Public Health England (PHE) will report by the end of May on how factors including ethnicity, gender and obesity affect outcomes in patients and NHS staff infected with COVID-19.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of patient records for people who have been infected with the virus and 'available data on health outcomes for NHS staff' will be analysed as part of the review.

The impact of deprivation and age will also be considered as PHE aims to develop a clear picture of 'more robust data on the factors impacting the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population'.

The review comes after growing concern over the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people who are black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).

BAME impact

Eight GPs have now lost their lives after being infected with coronavirus during the pandemic - seven of them from BAME backgrounds. People from BAME communities make up a high proportion overall of NHS workers who have died, and are significantly over-represented in the among ICU admissions and deaths in the general population.

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), meanwhile, has shown that people in the most deprived areas of England have died at more than twice the rate of those in the least deprived areas. The ONS said last week that 'the age-standardised mortality rate of deaths involving COVID-19 in the most deprived areas of England was 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population compared with 25.3 deaths per 100,000 population in the least deprived areas'.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: 'Every death from this virus is a tragedy and behind each statistic is a name, a loss and a family that will never be the same again.

'As part of our continued effort to understand even more about COVID-19, we have commissioned work from PHE to consider the impact of various factors such as ethnicity, obesity, age, gender and geographical location and how these may have an impact on someone’s susceptibility to the virus.

PHE review

'The more we know about this virus and its impact, the more we will be able protect lives and limit the spread.'

PHE public health director for London Professor Kevin Fenton, who will lead the review, said: 'Having an accurate understanding of how diseases affect different groups of people is a really important issue and a fundamental part of PHE’s role. Detailed and careful work is being done so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparities.

'Increasing evidence and concern around the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups highlights an important focus of this review. PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents.

'PHE is engaging a wide range of external experts and independent advisors, representing diverse constituencies including devolved administrations, faith groups, voluntary and community sector organisations, local government, public health, academic, royal colleges and others. We are committed to hearing voices from a variety of perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on people of different ethnicities.'

BMA leaders have warned that older BAME staff should not work in high-risk roles during the pandemic. Doctors' groups have called for faster action to protect BAME staff.

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