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PHE review into BAME Covid-19 deaths will trawl thousands of health records

Public Health England (PHE) has launched its rapid review into whether people of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are more adversely affected by Covid-19.

PHE said it would review thousands of existing health records in a bid to gather more robust data on cases and health outcomes, initally focusing on frontline workforce, and specifically doctors and nurses.

It aims to conclude the review, which will also look at other factors such as age, gender, deprivation and level of obesity, by the end of the month.

It comes as seven GPs of BAME background have now died with Covid-19 in England out of a total eight GPs to die. All of the GPs were male and over 50 years of age.

Lead researcher Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director of public health at PHE and NHS London, said: ‘Having an accurate understanding of how diseases affect different groups of people is a really important issue and a fundamental part of PHE’s role. Detailed and careful work is being done so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparities.

‘Increasing evidence and concern around the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic groups highlights an important focus of this review. PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents.’ 

It comes as GP practices were asked last week to carry out a risk assessment of their BAME staff as a precautionary measure while robust evidence is emerging.

In a live webinar with GPs on Thursday evening, primary care medical director Dr Nikita Kanani said NHS England is working with NHS Employers and the Government to develop a BAME risk assessment ‘that works for primary care’.

She said: ‘This is something that we recognise and we want to make sure that we provide primary care with the support it needs at this time in order to risk assess our staff and our colleagues.’

NHS England also issued a statement on Friday evening regarding the risk assessment in general practice.

It said: ‘We now know there is evidence of disproportionate mortality and morbidity amongst black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, including our NHS staff, who have contracted Covid-19.

‘The data is important, but this is not just an equality, diversity and inclusion issue – it is an urgent medical emergency and we need to act now.’