NHS workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds could be taken off the frontline over fears they could be at greater risk of coronavirus, new guidance suggests.
A letter from NHS England urges health trusts to “risk-assess” BAME workers and make “appropriate arrangements” which could include moving those from ethnic minority backgrounds away from the front line to non-patient facing roles.
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UK data is showing these workers are being “disproportionately affected by Covid-19”.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said Public Health England had been asked by the Department for Health and Social Care to look into the issue.
He added: “In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk assess staff at a potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”
It could mean BAME health workers being relocated to different roles within the NHS or ensuring they are adequately fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE).
BAME workers who have tragically passed away from coronavirus include 68-year-old care home nurse Rahima Bibi Sidhanee.
She passed away after refusing to retire at the start of the outbreak to look after elderly residents in a care home in Sutton, South London.
Her son Abu Sidhanee, 41, said: “She said the elderly people needed her and she actually started doing an extra shift.
That was how she was. People were in need of her and she was there. She was so dedicated and caring. She was bubbly and much loved at the home.
“That was how she was. People were in need of her and she was there. She was so dedicated and caring. She was bubbly and much loved at the home.”
Michael Allieu also passed away earlier this month at Homerton university hospital in East London.
Michael had worked as a staff nurse since 2007 and was a key member of the team in the Acute Care unit.
He had been in the hospital suffering from coronavirus for several days.
The first ten doctors in the UK to die from coronavirus were also all of BAME background, with many born overseas.
They included Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, 53, who died three weeks after writing to the Prime Minister asking him to “urgently” ensure PPE was available for “each and every NHS worker in the UK.”
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has suggested 34.5 per cent of critically ill Covid-19 patients have BAME backgrounds.
This is despite just 10.8 per cent of the population being black or Asian, according to the 2011 census.
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The Department of Health and Social Care announced on April 16 a review would take place to look into why BAME people were being affected disproportionately.
Recently, bosses at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust wrote to BAME employees establishing how they can be supported during the pandemic.
The letter encouraged staff to ensure they are properly fitted with appropriate PPE and to access testing for themselves and family members.
Peter Lewis, chief executive at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We recognise how worrying it is at the moment for our colleagues and we want to provide them with as much support as we can.
“Our BAME colleagues make a significant contribution to our Trust and the care we provide to patients. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment.”
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