Ethnic minority leaders in NHS on what needs to change in the health service to keep people of BAME backgrounds safe

When we published our survey on why BAME NHS staff think they've been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 we weren't expecting the strength of the results we got or indeed the reaction to it.

In essence, the survey revealed that ethnic minority workers believe systemic discrimination in the NHS is one the reasons so many of their colleagues have died.

They pointed to a lack of representation in senior roles, to concern about speaking up for fear of retribution, lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a higher proportion of BAME staff working in risky areas.

It didn't make for comfortable reading and has led to many organisations commenting on it and even using some of the comments to feed into their own internal investigations.

This week ITV News got some of the most influential ethnic minority leaders in the NHS together to find out what they think and what they are doing to address the problem.

Joan Saddler is the co-chair of Equality and Partnerships at the NHS Confederation, Dame Professor Donna Kinnair is the head of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Farzana Hussain is a GP and co-chair of the Primary Care Network, and hospital bosses Ifti Majid, Chief Executive of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and Danielle Oum, Chair of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.

What struck me about all of them was their honestly about the issue.

Joan Saddler is part of a team for both NHS confederation and NHS England trying to improve inequality in the system.

She fully admitted it was her responsibility to ensure staff are well looked after and have everything they need to feel safe.

She admitted the NHS had been too slow to react to emerging news that BAME staff were dying disproportionately.

The two hospital bosses were equally honest. Ifti Majid said he had learnt an awful lot since the pandemic. He admitted he needed to ensure white managers listened to the concerns of ethnic minority staff and in future make sure more BAME workers are promoted to senior roles. Both Ifti and Danielle, as bosses, said they needed to be held to account.

All five were unequivocal in the belief that there is discrimination in the NHS and it hasn't just come about since coronavirus, the pandemic has simply shone a light on an existing problem.

The fact that the majority of BAME staff in the NHS are in junior roles means the vast majority are in more risky areas. Fundamentally, they feel, a few things have gone wrong since the start of the crisis.

Staff from ethnic communities were not listened to, their concerns were not taken seriously enough and they weren't risk assessed right from the start.

The latter of course couldn't have happened until the full facts were apparent, but many still question whether risk assessments are good enough or taking place at all.

This week, Public Health England are to publish the first part of its review into the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities.

Not only will it take into account the affects it's having on NHS staff but also the wider community.

Our panel weren't expecting to hear anything they don't already know but what they did all say was that this is an opportunity to start solving the problems once and for all.

They are all looking forward to reading the results and all want to do everything they can to start addressing the huge disparities in the NHS and society as a whole.

For such senior people in health to say that is not only heartening, it is paramount.