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Government funds study into Covid-19 impact on BAME health workers

The Government will fund a £2.1m study into the effects of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic healthcare workers.

This comes after previous research concluded people of BAME backgrounds are more than twice as likely to die with the virus.

The University of Leicester-led UK-REACH study (UK Research study into Ethnicity And Covid-19 outcomes in Healthcare workers) will follow 30,000 staff for 12 months to see what changes occur in their physical and mental health, how they have changed their professional and social behaviours in response to Covid-19, and how risky their jobs are.

The study, which will also see involvement from the GMC, will include clinical healthcare staff as well as non-clinical staff integral to the running of services such as cleaners, kitchen staff and porters. The study, jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will also analyse 2m healthcare records.

Health minister Lord Bethell said: ‘I am deeply concerned by the disproportionate impact of this horrible virus on some minority communities. We need to find out what’s causing this, so we can stop these deaths. These research awards will give Britain’s scientists resources they need to answer the urgent questions behind these disparities so we can address the root causes and save lives.’

Chief medical officer for England and head of the NIHR Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘With evidence showing that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more severely affected by Covid-19, it is critical that we understand what factors are driving this risk to address them effectively.’

GMC director of strategy and policy Paul Buckley said: ‘Evidence suggests that BAME healthcare workers are particularly at risk from Covid-19, and so understanding the connection between coronavirus and ethnicity is crucial. This study is designed to investigate this.

‘The GMC is keen to support this important work and will play a key role, along with other organisations including universities, medical royal colleges, NHS organisations and bodies representing doctors. We hope that participation by doctors, and other healthcare professionals, will help increase understanding of this issue and provide robust evidence to mitigate future risks to BAME healthcare staff.’

GP practices have been asked to risk assess BAME staff and station them away from patient-facing roles if possible.