COVID-19: study shows racism contributes to higher risk of death for BAME nursing staff

Nusing leaders demand immediate government action on risk assessments to protect staff

Picture: iStock

Nursing leaders have called on the government to act after a study found racism and social inequality have contributed to the increased risk for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff of dying from COVID-19.

The Public Health England (PHE) report is based on sessions with more than 4,000 people with interests in BAME issues. It found historic racism may mean people are discriminated against when it comes to personal protective equipment, and may result in people from BAME backgrounds being less likely to seek care or demand better protection.

Call for BAME employee risk assessment tool to reduce exposure to COVID-19

The report recommends developing ‘culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools’ to reduce the risk of employees’ exposure to COVID-19.

RCN director of nursing, policy and
practice Susan Masters

RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Susan Masters said: ‘If UK governments had acted on the advice of previous reviews and reports, BAME nursing staff across the UK would have been better protected going into this pandemic.’

Ms Masters said action must be taken now to protect staff.

‘We’ve been calling on employers in all healthcare settings to take swift and comprehensive action to support and protect BAME staff through targeted risk assessments,’ she said.

‘These new recommendations show clearly why they must take place to avoid needless loss of life – what the government must do now is act.’

Empower BAME staff to speak up about concerns

Also responding to the report, Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘This report reinforces how vital it is that our registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates from BAME backgrounds benefit from enhanced assessments in their place of work to reduce risk and are supported and empowered to speak up about concerns without fear.’

A Government Equalities Office spokesperson said the study would help inform the next stages of its work to tackle disparities.

‘This work will be led by the minister for equalities as we look to build on the good work that is already being done to protect our communities from the impact of the coronavirus.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'We are working tirelessly to protect our NHS workers and take precautions with those who may be at higher risk.

'This government is rightly taking seriously the initial findings from the PHE reports and has already publicly set out the work that will be taken forward by the minister for equalities.'

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