‘Tangible and urgent action’ needed to protect BAME NHS staff

‘Urgent and tangible action’ must be taken to protect NHS workers from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) groups against coronavirus after recommendations from Public Health England (PHE), the BMA has warned.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul

On 17 June, PHE published the second part of its investigation into disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, warning that racism and social inequality may have contributed to higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death among BAME people.

The report made seven recommendations to protect staff at greater risk from the virus, including a call for better data collection on ethnicity within the health and care system and improved ‘access, experiences and outcomes’ of NHS services for BAME groups.

PHE’s initial report on 2 June found that death rates from COVID-19 are highest among patients from BAME groups.

BAME COVID-19 risk

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has now called on the government to produce ‘a clear action plan with timescales’ of how the recommendations will be implemented. The union labelled PHE's initial review a 'missed opportunity' to protect BAME staff.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Now that the second part of the PHE report with recommendations has been fully published we must see urgent and tangible action.

‘This pandemic has brought into sharp focus the longstanding inequalities affecting BAME communities in this country, with greater numbers of people from a BAME background living in deprived areas and overcrowded housing, and a higher proportion as key workers that exposed them to the virus and who were often not provided with necessary protections.

‘The government who commissioned this review must now produce a clear action plan with timescales of how these recommendations will be implemented. The time for reviews, reports and commissions is over.’

Racial inequality

‘What matters now is that the ministers must act swiftly to provide fair protection to people from ethnic minority backgrounds and to address the socio-economic and racial inequalities that have pervaded our nation for far too long,’ he added.

Dr Nagpaul said that ‘comprehensive data collection, risk assessments that recognise ethnicity as a potential risk factor and the use of culturally appropriate education and prevention campaigns’ would be key to protecting those most at risk from coronavirus.

In April the BMA called on the government to collect real-time data to understand why and how BAME communities and healthcare workers were being disproportionately affected by coronavirus.

BMA research shows that 63% of healthcare workers overall and a staggering 95% of doctorswho have died from COVID-19 were from BAME groups.

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