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Fifth of GP partners remove BAME staff from patient-facing work in pandemic

Exclusive More than one in five GP partners said they removed practice staff away from face-to-face care due to ethnicity during the pandemic, a Pulse survey has revealed. 

The survey in June revealed that 84 of the 378 respondents said that ‘ethnicity was a crucial factor in removing anyone in your practice away from face-to-face assessments’.

Around 70% of respondents said they had been counting ethnicity as a factor when risk assessing staff.

It became apparent early on in the Covid-19 pandemic that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were facing worse outcomes from the virus.

So far, 11 of the 12 GPs who have been known to have tragically died were from a BAME background.

The Government announced a review into the risks faced by BAME people, but it was shrouded in controversy as it was originally released with no recommendations. When the recommendations were released, they said that a risk tool should be developed, but there has been no announcement on this since.

Pulse reported that GP practices were developing their own risk tools, which factored in ethnicity.

The survey respondents said they were taking matters into their own hands.

Dr Vardan Tadevosyan, a GP partner in Wiltshire, said: ‘We risk assessed our staff before lockdown was implemented. Some 50% of our clinicians were removed from patient facing roles in a stroke. Four nurses were removed because they had underlying health conditions that could put them at high risk of complications from Covid-19, one GP because of their age and ethnicity. One more GP was restricted to working with cold patients only – also because of their ethnicity.’

Dr Paul Chandler, a GP partner in Telford and Wrekin, said: ‘We removed a partner from working in our “hot site” after doing a BAME risk assessment. The partner in question is male, 55+ and of Afro-Caribbean heritage. We calculated that he has an eight times higher risk ratio of complications if contracted Covid 19, and he was due to retire in the following three months.’

Dr Caroline Baker, GP partner at Faversham Medical Practice, said: ‘Our practice conducted a risk assessment for staff based on the emerging data in late April highlighting the risks faced by BAME health workers. As part of this process we offered all our BAME team members an opportunity to work remotely to protect them from preventable risk.’

NHS England said in June it had commissioned occupational health service support for primary care services that ‘may be via a local NHS trust occupational health department or an independent occupational health provider’.

It added that practices ‘remain legally responsible’ for occupational health risk assessments, and should work with commissioners and PCNs to ensure capacity for occupational health services meets demand.


The Pulse survey was conducted between 5 and 9 June, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 31 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. A total of 378 GP partners answered these questions. Those who answered ’no’ to the first question were not asked the second, but were counted as a ’no’ automatically. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for £100 John Lewis vouchers as an incentive to complete the survey.

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