Words by ITV News Senior Producer Roohi Hasan
Almost 40 per cent of Black Asian and Minority ethnic (BAME) doctors across the UK are yet to receive a coronavirus risk assessment - more than one month after they were recommended.
Life-saving guidance by NHS England issued at the end of April recommended that BAME and other staff at greater risk be risk-assessed at their workplace and 'appropriate arrangements' made for them.
The advice, given to to all hospital Trusts, CCGs and Primary Care Networks responsible for GPs, came as it emerged that those from ethnic minority backgrounds were 'being disproportionately affected by Covid-19’.
As the findings by the British Medical Association (BMA) were shared with ITV News, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, from the BMA, said: "We know they're not being done in any systematic way, in fact, it was only until recently that the government provided information to hospital trusts and to primary care providers as to what a risk assessment should look like, so this has been delayed for weeks.
"We also know from doctors when they've been risked assessed, greater numbers of BAME doctors are unsatisfied with that risk assessment, so it's not just about being risk assessed, it's about doing the right thing after you've been assessed."
It comes as the BMA and 13 other organisations representing BAME doctors called on the government to do more to protect their ethnic minority colleagues on the front line.
The BMA hosted a private meeting yesterday to discuss the Public Health England (PHE) Review released this week and ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan spoke to some of the participants after.
They told Emily of their upset and disappointment at the review’s lack of any recommendations for action as stated in their original aims.
Dr Nagpaul stressed from the BMA’s perspective: "We need to see action" urgently.
Dr JS Bamrah, representing the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), called the review a ‘shambles’, adding that any NHS worker dying from a virus, whilst trying to save patients from it, should be a ‘never again’ event.
The message from Dr Chandra Kanneganti, from the British International Doctors Association (BIDA), to the Government was: "We have had enough talking and discussions and need immediate action to stop further BAME deaths."
Odunayo Oyedele, from African and Caribbean Medical Mentors (ACMM) agreed, adding they had expected to see more of what would be tackled, but ‘none of that was really there’ in the review. She called for a qualitative report of what they ‘already know’.
BAME organisations consulted for the review are also angry because they believe it did not include what was discussed in their consultations (written or in person) with the PHE.
Dr Hina Shahid, Chair of the Muslim Doctors Association (MDA) attended three of the meetings held by PHE Professor Kevin Fenton, who is investigating BAME deaths.
"Don’t our lives matter?" she asked Emily, adding that they felt let down by the review and that some ‘deep seated uncomfortable truths’ raised by many of the community and medical groups in those run up meetings with him were not part of what has been released so far.
These 'truths' include race, discrimination and structural inequalities, according to a few of those individuals consulted for the review who spoke to ITV News.
Another source has told us these were indeed part of an initial draft of the review they had seen.
ITV News' own survey of 2,000 BAME NHS workers found that they believed deployment in high risk roles and discrimination were major contributing factors to their colleagues dying at a rate seven times higher than their non BAME colleagues.
A Public Health England spokesperson told ITV News: "On Tuesday, PHE published the rapid data review and this has been published in full. This was contributed to by Professor Kevin Fenton alongside a wide variety of PHE colleagues.
"Professor Fenton led PHE's work on Covid-19 and BAME communities, engaging with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community over the past couple of months, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of the virus on their communities. The valuable insight he has gathered will inform the important work the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch is now taking forward."
Dr Habib Naqvi, Interim Director, NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard, said: “This week’s report from Public Health England has again put a spotlight on the health inequalities in our society, and is further evidence for why NHS organisations and trusts are prioritising and carrying out risk assessments for their black and minority ethnic staff and other vulnerable groups, in line with guidance from NHS Employers.”