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Second trust recognises BAME staff as ‘vulnerable and at risk’

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Exclusive A Lincolnshire hospital trust has become the second to recognise its black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) workforce as ‘vulnerable and at risk’.

It comes as six out of the seven GPs so far known to have died with coronavirus (Covid-19) are from BAME backgrounds and as the Government has launched a review into why people from BAME backgrounds seem to be at higher risk from serious complication and death from Covid-19.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust yesterday wrote to all staff outlining the measures it was taking to support and protect its BAME collegues. It thanked Somerset NHS Foundation Trust for sharing the content of a similar letter it recently issued to all BAME staff.

The British International Doctors’ Association is now contacting all hospital trusts to request they ‘follow the same path’ and Pulse understands that local clinical directors in one area have considered issuing similar advice for GPs.

Measures at the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS FT include:

  • Adding BAME staff to the ongoing ‘priority list’ for testing;
  • ensuring they are fit-tested for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) ‘as soon as possible’; and
  • pledging that sick leave due to Covid-19 will have no negative repercussions on employment.

Staff should ensure that the contact and ethnicity details in their electronic staff record is accurate and up-to-date so that BAME staff can be identified and protected, the trust said.

In a letter seen by Pulse, it said: ‘We have taken the decision to include BAME colleagues into the vulnerable and at-risk group and are asking managers to have conversations with all BAME colleagues as they would for all within the vulnerable groups.’

BAME staff and their households will now be included in the ‘priority list’ for Covid-19 testing during the first five days of symptoms and ‘will not be refused testing’ even if trust policy changes due to capacity, it added.

The letter said: ‘You will not be refused a test in the first five days of the onset of the recognised symptoms. We are currently offering the Covid-19 test for any colleagues who is in the first five days of having symptoms due to available capacity.

‘If this changes, BAME colleagues will remain on our priority list. This also applies to any of your family members who live with you [and] are also in the first five days of symptoms.’

The trust also pledged to ensure that BAME staff who need to use an FFP3 mask will be fit tested ‘as soon as possible’ while any sick leave taken due to coronavirus-related illness will not affect staff’s ’job role or future progress’.

It said: ’If you need to take sick leave due to Covid-19 related illness, we can reassure you that this will not affect your job role or future progress. We are committed to supporting the development of our BAME colleagues and will continue to do so.’

The trust wants to ensure its BAME staff are ‘safe and well-supported’ during the pandemic and has set up a working group to oversee the measures, it said.

This is a ‘high priority’ for the trust and ‘the right approach to take’, it added.

The letter said: ‘We have heard that many BAME colleagues are understandably worried about their own and their families’ health at this time. 

‘While we do not yet have any conclusive research or national guidance, we feel this is the right approach to take. We also hope that you feel comfortable sharing any concerns you have about any underlying conditions so that these can be taken into consideration when planning your work.’

Meanwhile, BIDA, which is contacting other trusts to request they take similar steps, said in their letter: ‘As you would be well aware… people from BAME backgrounds appear to be disproportionately likely to develop severe coronavirus symptoms.’

The Government is currently undertaking a review into why BAME people appear particularly affected by Covid-19, after the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) wrote to NHS leaders over ongoing concerns about disproportionately high mortality rates among BAME healthcare staff.

The BMA has also written to NHS England earlier this month, asking that it looks into whether workplace inequalities are putting BAME doctors at greater risk.

It comes as the Government last night announced that the bereaved families of all NHS frontline staff who die with coronavirus will get a £60,000 death-in-service benefits as the deathtoll is rising.