The Government needs to do more to protect BAME doctors and patients in the second wave of Covid-19, the BMA has said.
The comments come in response to a review carried out by social justice campaigner Baroness Doreen Lawrence, published by the Labour party yesterday, on protecting BAME staff who have to attend workplaces during the pandemic.
The Lawrence report called on the Government to ‘set out an urgent plan for tackling the disproportionate impact of Covid on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people this winter’, as Covid cases surge once again.
- Introducing a legal requirement for employers to publish their Covid risk assessments on a central portal and improve access to PPE in ‘all high-risk workplaces where a risk assessment requires it’
- Advising employers to provide PPE that is ‘appropriate for all staff’ including those who wear hijabs, turbans or have beards for religious reasons;
- Ensuring all workplace coronavirus cases are ‘properly recorded’ in line with health and safety law;
- The removal of barriers to accessing healthcare, including a suspension of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule during the pandemic and a review on its impact on health inequalities;
- The removal of linguistic, cultural and digital barriers to accessing public health information and the adoption of alternative channels for information and support;
- ‘Immediate action’ to ensure comprehensive ethnicity data collection across the NHS and social care;
- The implementation of a Race Equality Strategy developed with BAME communities, including a national strategy to tackle health inequalities with ‘ministerial accountability and targets’.
The report said: ‘[BAME] workers have suffered disproportionately from the Government’s failure to facilitate Covid-secure workplaces.
‘Many respondents told us about inadequate PPE, failures to implement and access risk assessments and insufficient government guidance on their protection.’
Responding to the review, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the Government’s response to the evidence so far ‘continues to fall short of what is needed’.
He said: ‘Today’s report emphasises even more what the BMA has been saying since the pandemic began – that so much more must be done to protect at-risk groups.
‘As Baroness Lawrence has shown, racism breeds health inequalities which in turn affects our patients and colleagues, and at worst, kills.’
Dr Nagpaul called for Covid risk assessments for all NHS staff to be ‘strengthened to help give staff the necessary protections they need at work’, as well as a ‘tangible plan’ that implements recommendations made by the BMA ‘and others’ ‘in full’.
He added: ‘The Government responded to our concerns about how the virus is impacting BAME people, earlier this year, by commissioning a review from PHE.
‘While the Government published its long overdue progress report last week, it is clear that the response continues to fall short of what is needed.’
GPs were asked by NHS England in June to complete risk assessments for at-risk practice staff within four weeks, including those from BAME backgrounds.
However, Pulse revealed in August that practices were being refused occupational health support for their staff risk assessments by over-stretched services.