BAME nursing staff 'less protected' amid issues around PPE, survey finds

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff are more likely to experience difficulties accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) than their white colleagues, a survey has found.

Across health and social care settings, both high-risk and not, a higher percentage of BAME respondents reported issues with PPE compared to their white counterparts.

The findings by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) follow an exclusive ITV News survey that found "discrimination" on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak may be factor in the disproportionate number of BAME deaths among NHS staff.

The RCN survey found issues with eye and face protection, and fluid-repellent gowns. Credit: AP

In the UK-wide survey of members working in high-risk environments, the RCN found less than half (43 per cent) of respondents from a BAME background said they had enough eye and face protection.

In contrast, 66 per cent of white British nursing staff who responded said they had sufficient amounts of the same type of PPE.

There was a similar disparity in the numbers of fluid-repellent gowns RCN members said they had access to.

While 19 per cent of white British staff reported they did not have enough gowns to see them through a shift, that percentage increased to 37 per cent of BAME respondents.

Issues around the supply and quality of PPE surfaced early in the coronavirus outbreak, with medics on the frontline warning about a lack of proper protection.

PPE shortages have since been a complaint from hospices and care homes as the UK passed the peak of the outbreak.

Health Secretary for England Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday that the Government had made "significant progress" on PPE issues.

He added that they were not only keeping up with demand, but were now in a position to replenish stockpiles

The percentage of BAME respondents who had been asked to reuse single-use PPE was 11 per cent higher than their white British colleagues.

The RCN found that more than half of its BAME members surveyed had been asked to reuse PPE intended for one use only.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: "It is simply unacceptable that we are in a situation where BAME nursing staff are less protected than other nursing staff."

She added that the survey reinforced calls for "specific risk assessments" for BAME nursing staff - something medical leaders representing other groups have also said is needed.

"All of our nursing staff must have the protection they need, and action must be taken urgently to ensure they are all kept safe," Dame Kinnair added.

  • British Medical Association Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, has called for risk assessments that factor in BAME backgrounds:

Surveying its members, the RCN found similar results among nursing staff working in less high-risk environments.

While across all settings, the group found nearly a quarter of BAME nursing staff felt they had no confidence their employer was doing enough to adequately protect them from the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.

Of white British respondents, just 11 per cent reported the same concern.

A report by Public Health England into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME groups is expected to be published next week.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: