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Many BAME staff feel at risk of coronavirus and pressure to treat patients without proper PPE


By Awil Mohamoud
Reporter
23 June 2020

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Black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors are less likely to feel fully protected from coronavirus and more inclined to feel pressured into treating patients without proper PPE compared to white colleagues, according to a BMA survey. 

In the survey of 7,500 doctors, carried out last week, more than a third of BAME doctors said they still have not had a Covid-19 risk assessment, two months after NHS England recommended them in April. However, it did show that BAME doctors are more likely to have received one. 

Also, 46% of BAME doctors said they felt less likely to feel fully protected from Covid-19, compared with 29% of their white colleagues. 

Four in 10 BAME doctors ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ felt pressured to see patients without proper PPE, while two in 10 of their white counterparts said the same.

More than 90% of GPs who have died with coronavirus came from a BAME background, according to the BMA’s records.

Following it’s report into health disparities, Public Health England made a list of recommendations, which included a call to the Government to ‘accelerate the development of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools’, particularly to help protect key workers ‘in contact with’ those infected with coronavirus. 

It also concluded that ‘historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work may mean that BAME individuals are less likely to seek care when needed or as NHS staff less likely to speak up when they have concerns about PPE or testing’.

In its original report, the PHE confirmed that some ethinic minority groups are up to twice as likely to die from coronavirus compared to their white counterparts, after taking account of outside factors, including age and deprivation levels. 

Last month, a group of healthcare professionals created their own Covid-19 risk assessment scoring system for general practice to help identify and redeploy the most vulnerable staff. 

BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the findings of the survey are ‘extremely troubling’ and that ‘while the NHS has listened to calls by the BMA to direct all providers to risk assess healthcare workers who are most at risk, it is clear there is still much work to be done’ to minimise risks that BAME staff face. 

‘The BMA has been calling for a national system or tool for risk assessments to be put in place in England, however, this has still not been delivered, leading to a lack of consistency and proper mitigation of risk in the assessments that are being carried out,’ he added. 

‘It is vital that healthcare workers are properly assessed so that those at high risk can be redeployed to areas where they are less at risk or work remotely, while still providing a vital service to the NHS.’

He added that BAME staff ‘can be less confident in raising concerns and more fearful of being blamed if something goes wrong’, and that employers ‘must ensure doctors are fully supported in coming forward and speaking out’.

‘Ultimately, it is crucial that lessons are learned from this pandemic – especially with the risk of a second wave – so that we act to ensure that the colour of your skin does not dictate your chance of survival.’

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