Almost all medical staff and two-thirds of nurses who have died from the Coronavirus come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities reports Mark Conrad.
The situation is now so bad that the chair of the BMA, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, told ITV News that the mere status of being a BAME doctor ‘puts you at risk’.
An extraordinary 97% of Britain’s medical staff who have died from COVID-19 are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, shocking new data has revealed.
As the death toll among frontline health and care workers today reached 208, verified data from the professional nursing website Nursing Notes shows that 33 out of the 34 deaths among medical professionals were people from BAME backgrounds.
In addition, 65% of nursing staff (42 workers), and 63% of healthcare assistants (22), who have died come from Britain’s diverse BAME communities – revealing the stark reality of the additional COVID-19 risk currently borne by staff from ethnic minority populations.
Some 40% of ancillary staff, 35% of allied healthcare staff and 32% of social workers who have died also hail from Britain’s BAME communities.
Overall, 60% of the 208 frontline health and care fatalities are BAME staff.
Several complicated factors are believed to be behind the disproportionate impact on BAME staff – including the appeal of the prestigious medical profession to some communities and the fact that many lower-paid and female staff in nursing and care tend to come from BAME groups.
But the situation is now so bad that the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Chaand Nagpaul, told ITV News, that the mere status of being a BAME doctor “puts you at risk”.
He said: “That needs to be added to the risk profiling and there needs to be an assessment – those doctors who are at highest risk need to be protected. That doesn’t mean they don’t provide services within the NHS, it means they shouldn’t be put in a position where they are in an infection-prone environment.”
NHS bodies have held provisional discussions about redeploying frontline staff at disproportionate risk of contracting COVID-19. Specifically, NHS England wrote to hospitals last week, asking managers to begin sensitive talks and risk assessments for BAME staff. As yet, there is no guidance as to what such consultations and procedures should look like.
Nursing bodies partially share Dr Nagpaul’s view, and pointed out to Byline Times that BAME staff within the NHS have, for multiple reasons, tended to be deployed in frontline roles – where they have more day-to-day contact with the virus.
At this stage of the pandemic, there appears to be no firm evidence to suggest a significant genetic reason why some BAME groups are more vulnerable to Coronavirus or its related disease, COVID-19 – leaving experts fearful that the hugely disproportionate impact indicates a degree of workplace inequality which needs to be tackled.
Certainly, female BAME staff within nursing and care tend to be found more regularly among the lower-income bands within the NHS and local authorities.
Some early data on COVID-19 victims indicates that men are disproportionately affected, as well as those with cardiovascular conditions, and the majority of BAME doctors in the UK are male.
Writing on her blog, Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME staff was an “inescapable truth” and suggested that agency workers, for example, are too readily moved onto COVID-19 wards and therefore may be bearing a much higher risk than non-BAME nurses.
“The RCN is determined to bring together the evidence on this experience faced by some of our members and speak up for them,” she said.
What is undoubtedly still a significant issue for the NHS, however, is the continued lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff at some NHS facilities and care homes.
While most hospitals continue only to treat patients when staff are equipped with surgical masks, aprons and gloves, some sites are still experiencing PPE shortages. One hospital in London told Byline Times that some of its phlebotomists, who take blood samples from scores of patients each day, are still suffering from the rationing of face masks and other equipment. Patients at the hospital had observed staff taking blood samples without masks.
Sixteen healthcare-related trade unions have called on the Government to finally tackle PPE shortages once and for all, as the NHS plans to re-open outpatient clinics and other services amid the wider easing of lockdown restrictions.
Head of health at Unison, the UK’s biggest public sector union, Sara Gorton, said: “Health employees across the NHS have continued to work while most of us have been safe at home. As hospitals get busier, and clinics and other services begin to reopen, the safety of staff and patients is paramount. But this can’t happen without plentiful and constant PPE supplies.”