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BAPIO addresses NHS employers over high mortality rates among BAME staff

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has written to NHS leaders over ongoing concerns about disproportionately high mortality rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) healthcare staff.

The Government is undertaking a review into why BAME people appear particularly affected by Covid-19. This pattern is also evidenced within the health service, with five of the six GPs who have died with the virus being men of BAME background.

In a letter addressed to CCGs, health boards and trusts, BAPIO said: ‘[We have] been raising concerns about the high mortality rates amongst BAME HSCWs with NHS England and NHS Wales.

‘Indeed in response to our letter to Sir Simon Stevens dated 7 April 2020, he has launched a review meeting on the matter. We will continue to work within the framework of that review in order to address the anomaly that has resulted from Covid-19.

‘We are recommending that employers urgently carry out a stratified risk assessment so that those HCSWs on the frontline of tackling the pandemic are not unnecessarily put at risk.’

Its recommendations are: 

  • That as a priority, all staff on the frontline are risk assessed for age, sex, ethnicity, pre-existing medical conditions, and if at significant risk, they are deployed in non-Covid clinical areas or advised to work remotely. Retired and returning doctors and nurses should be given the highest priority in this assessment
  • In the absence of testing BAME staff for vitamin D deficiency due to pressure on chemical pathology labs, the offer of an advisory memorandum for Vitamin D replacement in doses that would address any underlying D3 deficiency
  • All frontline staff dealing with suspected/confirmed Covid patients to be equipped with long-sleeve gowns and FFP3 masks, and testing should be freely available in suspected cases.
  • That no employee feels bullied or harassed for raising concerns about unsafe working conditions.

President Dr Ramesh Mehta OBE told Pulse: ‘BAPIO have been expressing concern as well as trying to work with the government on the disproportionate deaths of our BAME colleagues from Covid-19.

‘There has been a lack of urgency by NHS bosses, and so we have had to resort to writing directly to NHS employers to highlight who might be vulnerable and what steps employers can take to protect them.’

BAPIO has also conducted a study of 2,003 healthcare staff, 24% of whom are GPs, and concluded that BAME background is ‘an independent risk factor’ for Covid-19.

The survey, conducted between 14 and 21 April, revealed that 80% of respondents did not deem their PPE fit for purpose, while 70% could not comply with social distancing in the clinical areas of their work.