Assess BAME healthcare staff for COVID-19 risk, NHS England tells trusts

Employers urged to take action to protect black and Asian nurses, amid health fears

Picture: Charles Mulligan

All NHS workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds should be risk-assessed because of concern they may be at greater risk from COVD-19, the NHS states.

A letter from NHS England urges trusts to make 'appropriate arrangements' that could include removing BAME nurses from front-line roles.

The letter says UK data is showing these workers are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre suggests 34.5% of critically ill COVID-19 patients are from BAME backgrounds. According to the 2011 census in England and Wales, 10.8% of the population were black or Asian.

Precautionary approach to risk assessment ahead of PHE report

In the letter, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said Public Health England (PHE) has been asked by the Department for Health and Social Care to investigate.

Sir Simon Stevens  Picture: Barney Newman

'In advance of [the PHE] report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers risk-assess staff at a potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly,’ the letter reads.

Recently, Middlesex University research fellow Roger Kline told Nursing Standard government and employers should be taking immediate action to safeguard BAME staff, including through risk-assessing their workforces and carrying out equality impact assessments.

Some employers have already independently acted on the issue, with managers at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust giving to BAME staff priority COVID-19 testing and encouraging them to ensure they were properly fitted with appropriate PPE.

The DHSC announced on 16 April that a review would take place to investigate why BAME people were being affected disproportionately.

A free webinar discussing BAME nurses and midwives' experience in the current climate will broadcast online tomorrow at 7pm, with guest nurse speakers such as the RCN's general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair and Middlesex University nurse lecturer Sheila Sobrany.

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