Black, Asian and Minority ethnic NHS staff could be taken off the front-line over concerns they are more vulnerable to coronavirus.
New guidance sent from NHS England to hospitals nationwide asks that BAME staff are ‘risk-assessed’ on a ‘precautionary basis’.
Figures have shown 63 per cent of all health and social care workers who have died from coronavirus are from ethnic minority backgrounds, despite only making up 16 per cent of the workforce.
BAME patients also made up 16 per cent of all virus hospital deaths in England up to April 21.
The Government has since launched an urgent inquiry into the alarming statistics.
Doctors and nurses from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus. Pictured are those that have died from the virus
Hospitals received a letter from NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and its chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, according to the Telegraph.
The letter reads: ‘Emerging UK and international data suggests that people from BAME backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid-19.
‘Public Health England have been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to investigate this. In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis, we commend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.’
This could mean that BAME doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are given lower risk or remote jobs away from coronavirus wards.
Earlier this week the Somerset Foundation Trust became the first in the country to prioritise BAME staff for access to facemasks.
Hospitals received a letter from NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens (pictured earlier this week in Downing Street) and its chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard
The NHS trust is treating all its black, Asian and minority ethnic employees as ‘vulnerable and at risk’ of coronavirus.
The trust has now included all its BAME workers in the vulnerable and at risk group, and is asking managers to have conversations with them and discuss concerns.
In a letter to staff, the trust’s chief executive Peter Lewis said: ‘While we don’t yet have any conclusive research or national guidance, we feel that is the right approach to take.
‘We also hope that you feel comfortable sharing any concerns you have about any underlying conditions so that these can be taken into consideration when planning your work.’
The letter said BAME staff and their families will be able to access testing within the first five days of developing any symptoms, and any who require an FFP3 mask – which offers greater protection than a normal surgical mask – will be supported to be fit-tested as soon as possible.
Earlier this week the Somerset Foundation Trust became the first in the country to prioritise BAME staff for access to facemasks (staff pictured wearing full personal protective equipment at Royal Liverpool University Hospital)
Mr Lewis added: ‘We recognise how worrying it is at the moment for our colleagues and we want to provide them with as much support as we can.
‘Our BAME colleagues make a significant contribution to our trust and the care we provide to patients. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment.’
Yvonne Coghill, director of NHS England’s workforce race equality standard unit, tweeted ‘many should follow the lead of Somerset FT,’ describing the trust as ‘compassionate’ with strong leadership.
The Government has launched an inquiry into the ‘devastating disparity’ which means BAME patients are at disproportionately high risk of becoming critically ill with coronavirus.
Scientists say the disparity may be because they are more likely to suffer from conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Social and demographic factors also play a role, as BAME people are more likely to live in densely populated areas which may make social distancing harder.
Pictured: Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, part of the Somerset Foundation Trust that is making sure BAME staff get better access to facemasks
The British Medical Association (BMA) also suggested that BAME doctors may feel less able to raise concerns about inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), as they report higher levels of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chairman, said a survey showed doctors from ethnic minorities were three times more likely to feel pressured to treat patients without adequate PPE.
He said: ‘These figures are staggering. They are worrying and disturbing. In fact these doctors have come from other parts of the world to provide vital care and save other people’s lives in our health service and now they have sadly paid the ultimate sacrifice.’
The first ten doctors in the UK to die from coronavirus were all of BAME background, with many born overseas.
Dr Habib Naqvi, the NHS director for workforce race and equality, said: ‘The fact that a high number of black and minority ethnic staff are dying from this pandemic is a worry for us.’
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said: ‘It’s critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so we can help to protect them.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We have commissioned work from Public Health England to understand the different factors that may influence the way someone is affected by this virus.’