Doctor leaders have asked health authorities to investigate why Covid-19 morbidity seems to be having a disproportionate effect on doctors of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has written to NHS England, asking that it looks into whether workplace inequalities are putting BAME doctors at greater risk.
He said in a letter to chif executive Simon Stevens: ‘We are writing to express our concerns about two issues. Firstly, the impact on the [BAME] population, and second, the high number of deaths among BAME doctors.
‘We seek your assurances that you will investigate the issues raised below and take every necessary action to ensure that the experiences and needs of BAME people are properly considered and addressed.’
The letter continued: ‘Structural inequalities in the workforce may be placing some BAME doctors at greater risk.
‘We remain concerned about the deployment of older, retired doctors into direct patient-facing or high-risk roles too. As well as coming from mainly BAME backgrounds, the majority of doctors who have so far died in this pandemic are over the age of 60.’
The BMA referred to recent research carried out by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), which suggested that BAME Covid-19 patients are more likely to be admitted to intensive care – although the report suggested this could be linked to socio-economic factors and the demographic make-up of the two worst-affected cities in the UK, namely London and Birmingham.
Dr Nagpaul wrote: ‘The ICNARC report found that, despite making up 13% of the population, 35% of people critically ill with Covid-19 are BAME.’
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has also raised concerns.
President Dr Ramesh Mehta said: ‘At this national crisis, we have expressed our solid support to the Government. However, inadequately equipped soldiers in the frontline worries us a lot.
‘We have offered our assistance to the chief medical officer and Public Health England to research into causes of increased mortality amongst the BAME group so that preventive measures can be taken.’