NHS workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds should be “risk-assessed” over concerns they could be at greater risk of coronavirus, new guidance suggests.
A letter from NHS England urges health trusts to make “appropriate arrangements”, which could include moving those from ethnic minority backgrounds away from the front line to non-patient facing roles.
The official guidance says UK data is showing these workers are being “disproportionately affected by Covid-19”.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said Public Health England had been asked by the Department for Health and Social Care to look into the issue.
He added: “In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk assess staff at a potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”
It could mean BAME health workers being relocated to different roles within the NHS or ensuring they are adequately fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has suggested 34.5% of critically ill Covid-19 patients have BAME backgrounds.
This is despite just 10.8% of the population being black or Asian, according to the 2011 census.
The Department of Health and Social Care announced on April 16 that a review would take place to look into why BAME people were being affected disproportionately.
Recently, bosses at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust wrote to BAME employees establishing how they can be supported during the pandemic.
The letter encouraged staff to ensure they are properly fitted with appropriate PPE and to access testing for themselves and family members.
Peter Lewis, chief executive at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We recognise how worrying it is at the moment for our colleagues and we want to provide them with as much support as we can.
“Our BAME colleagues make a significant contribution to our Trust and the care we provide to patients. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment.”