COVID-19: BAME nurses to receive priority testing at Somerset trust

Initiative seeks to counter disproportionate impact of COVID-19 seen on BAME staff

Picture: John Houlihan

A trust in England will give priority COVID-19 testing to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff as people from these backgrounds seem to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust sent a letter to its BAME members of staff announcing that they will be included in the ‘vulnerable and at-risk group’.

People on priority list can be tested during first five days of symptoms

From now, BAME staff employed at the trust and the people they live with will be included on the priority list for testing during the first five days of symptoms.

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The trust will also support BAME staff who need to use an FFP3 mask with drop-in clinics where they can be properly fitted.

The initiative comes after the government announced an inquiry into the impact of the virus on the UK’s BAME population.

The letter from trust chief executive Peter Lewis and director of people Isobel Clements says: ‘This is a high priority for our trust at this time.’

The letter also assures BAME staff that sick leave due to COVID-19 will not affect their jobs or future careers, and the trust will keep in regular contact with staff who are on sick leave.

Plan applauded by WRES nurse leader

The initiative received praise on Twitter from Yvonne Coghill, director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe also expressed her concern about the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on people from BAME backgrounds.

‘Every death is devastating and especially so when it’s a health or care professional working to save the lives of others,’ she said.

Ms Sutcliffe added the NMC would be reviewing relevant information it held on the issue in relation to the nursing and midwifery workforce.

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