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NHS updates guidance on BAME Covid-19 risk but ‘unable’ to endorse scoring tool

NHS England has released updated guidance on how employers can assess the risk to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers from Covid-19, but has stopped short of endorsing a specific scoring tool.

Advice was previously issued by the NHS at the end of April on risk assessments for all workers at risk of more serious illness from the virus, including BAME staff.

The latest version of the guidance, compiled by NHS Employers on behalf of NHS England, provides more details on how to assess and mitigate risks for BAME staff.

It signposts to ‘a range of approaches’ to assessment – some including scoring – so healthcare bosses can decide how to apply them in their own organisations, but does not back a specific tool.

New resources it points to include a risk stratification tool produced by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which is behind the approach now being used by NHS Wales.

The guidance also refers to occupational health advice for BAME and other staff drawn up by Guys’ and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said the organisation received a variety of feedback about the original guidance, including from trade union representatives, NHS England and key stakeholders.

He said: ‘Building on examples of approaches already being taken in NHS organisations we have updated our guidance to provide more detail to employers about the approach they should be taking in assessing and mitigating the greater risk that Covid-19 presents to some of our team members in the NHS.

‘This risk assessment is a significant undertaking for organisations but is one we know that they are taking extremely seriously.’

He added: ‘We explored whether it was possible to endorse a risk assessment scoring tool, but it became clear that we would not be able to endorse any single such tool nationally.

‘We have therefore signposted a range of approaches – some of which do involve scoring and some of which don’t – to allow healthcare providers to review them and decide whether they can be applied locally.’

At the end of April, NHS England advised GP practices to risk assess their staff from BAME backgrounds, in light of emerging evidence that they are more at risk from coronavirus.

It came after some NHS hospital trusts deemed their BAME staff as ‘vulnerable and at risk’.

On 30 April NHS Employers published guidance on the risk assessments for all workers at risk of more serious illness due to the virus, including BAME colleagues.

Since then a group of GPs have created their own Covid-19 risk assessment scoring system for general practice to help identify and redeploy the most vulnerable staff.

The Safety Assessment and Decision (SAAD) scorecard places practice workers into either ‘mild’, moderate’ or ‘high risk’, based on factors such as ethnicity, age, gender, BMI, vitamin D levels and medical conditions.

A Public Health England review of whether BAME people are more adversely affected by Covid-19 is ongoing and due to report soon.

Almost all of the GPs who have died from Covid-19 so far have been from BAME backgrounds.