BAME medical groups write to health secretary demanding urgent action to safeguard them from further coronavirus deaths

People from BAME backgrounds are up to twice as likely to die from coronavirus as their white counterparts. Credit: ITV News
  • By ITV News Senior Producer Roohi Hasan

Thirty black, Asian and minority ethnic medical organisations representing tens of thousands of doctors and nurses, including the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) have written a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, to express their upset at the review released by the government this week.

The letter is also for the attention of the Prime Minister and Public Health England too

The signatories include groups representing a broad range of ethnicities and faiths such as the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Muslim Doctors Association, African and Caribbean Medical Mentors, British Islamic Medical Association, Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons UK, British Somali Medical Association, Bangladesh Medical Association UK and Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK.

Some of these organisations were consulted for the review either in person or in writing, with some having been in the round table consultations held by Professor Kevin Fenton who has been leading the review for PHE.

Their letter details why they are unhappy as well detailing what they want to see happen now and urgently and some of their key claims include:

BAME medical organisations are calling for more to be done. Credit: PA
  • "The failure of visible leadership that will engage and reform the institutional racism that Sir Simon Stevens [Chief Executive of NHS England] has referred to."

  • "We are deeply concerned about... reports that ministers held back on recommendations made by the review team."

  • “BAME health professionals and community members who have lost relatives, friends and colleagues are aghast, and question the value – and even the intent – of such a report.”

  • As a priority, PHE and the government must urgently publish, in full, any recommendations and actions it plans to take to address inequalities that BAME communities face. This is a crisis of confidence and credibility that we cannot afford.

  • "The system must move beyond rhetoric and implement urgent measures to safeguard BAME staff and communities."

  • "We must move beyond statements and acts of solidarity. Failing to do so will mean yet more BAME lives and livelihoods will suffer."

The groups end the letter requesting a meeting with Mr Hancock and Ms Badenoch, as well as Duncan Selbie CEO of PHE and Sir Stevens.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “The NHS would be nothing without the thousands of BAME staff who give their all, day-in, day-out treating patients and ensuring the service can operate.

"But during this pandemic, we have seen the tragic disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on this invaluable group of staff...

"The BMA is joining with these organisations that represent ethnic minority medical staff in calling on the government to take urgent action to protect our BAME colleagues on the frontline, and to work with us so that any further review has the confidence of BAME communities, doctors and healthcare workers and provides tangible solutions that prevent any more losing their lives while fighting the pandemic on the front line.”

Dr Chaand Nagpul, chair of the BMA, is calling for more to be done. Credit: ITV News/PA

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Following the findings of the PHE report published earlier this week, the government is taking action.

“More needs to be done.

"The Equalities Minister is now undertaking further work, to protect our communities from the impact of Covid-19.”

Yesterday ITV news reported on concerns from the BMA and some of these medical organisations as they told Emily Morgan of their anger over a perceived lack of action in this week’s review.

Some sources told ITV News, they believe issues including race, discrimination and structural inequalities - which they said they raised in consultations with PHE - were not what was released.

Another source told ITV News that these issues were indeed part of an initial draft of the review they had seen.

A PHE spokesperson told ITV News on Saturday: "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."

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

Sunday's letter and call for action comes as ITV News and BMA research this week revealed 40% of BAME doctors surveyed said risk assessments to prevent against Covid deaths, recommended by the NHS nationwide five weeks earlier, have still not been carried out.