‘Unpublished’ Coronavirus BAME protection advice to be released next week after backlash

Nurses sit with lit candles bearing the names of 235 health and social care workers that have died from coronavirus during a vigil outside D Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

A report with advice for Government on how to protect BAME communities from coronavirus will be published next week - following anger at its omission from an initial release.

Public Health England (PHE) said the recommendations will be published next week when submitted to ministers.

This follows their review that was published last week showing that Covid-19 kills disproportionately high numbers of people from ethnic minorities. It was criticised for lacking any recommendations cited in their original terms of reference for the review.

ITV News reported on Sunday that this perceived lack of action led to a letter from the British Medical Association (BMA) and BAME medical organisations to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A separate document was published last week showing that Covid-19 kills disproportionately high numbers of people from ethnic minorities Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

On Thursday, one signatory of this letter told ITV News's Roohi Hasan: "Mixed messages from the government have been extremely unhelpful and this has undermined trust and credibility within the BAME community.

"However, the announcement of publication of the second part is much welcomed."

But BAME organisations said their one outstanding priority is seeing the government guidance translated to action.

The British International Doctors' Association told Hasan it was "glad to see the recommendations (are forthcoming) and has urged the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch to implement them "as soon as possible".

BAME healthcare staff who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic Credit: PA

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

Another source told ITV News these issues had been part of an initial draft of the review.

PHE said in a statement: “The Government commissioned PHE to conduct an epidemiological review to analyse how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from Covid-19. This was published in full on the 2nd June.

“In parallel, Professor Kevin Fenton, on PHE’s behalf, engaged with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of Covid-19 on their communities.”

Yet when ITV News asked about any further releases earlier this week, a spokesperson for Ms Badenoch's Equalities department failed to mention it. The department statement instead said: "We are now taking action on the initial findings from the recently published PHE report, which this Government takes very seriously.

“Through this work, we will be able to make a real difference to people’s lives and protect our communities from the impact of the coronavirus.”

The new report is credited to Professor Kevin Fenton, who PHE had originally said would lead their whole review into the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities when it was announced on May 4.

But when the review was published last week, the organisation said Prof Fenton only “contributed” to the document. It is unclear whether the information was intended to be released in two reports.

Prof Fenton addressed the PHE review briefly during a recent webinar with Health In Hackney, in which he said it had been a privilege to engage with 4,000 BAME community members. It's the only time he has addressed the matter since the report's release.

Lit candles bearing the names of health and social care workers that have died from coronavirus Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Prof Fenton said the four key issues which emerged from the dialogue were social inequalities, occupational risk, underlying health problems like diabetes and structural issues like racism and discrimination.

The PA news agency has verified the deaths of 166 frontline UK healthcare workers with Covid-19 since the start of March this year.

Of those, 100 workers came from BAME backgrounds, while 39 (23%) were white and 27 (16%) were of unknown ethnic origin.

A scientist who had been asked to peer-review the as-yet-unpublished recommendations file told ITV News people's efforts had been spoiled.

Professor Raj Bhopal from the University of Edinburgh criticised the conduct over the report – titled Beyond the Data: Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities.

Professor Raj Bhopal told ITV News: "In the context of the pandemic there’s one thing that matters above everything else: trust. There has to be trust between the government, the professionals and the public.

"My mother used to say a cup of milk takes a lot of work to make, however it only takes one drop of lemon to spoil it. That is what has happened here. So much great work has been spoiled because of the lack of communication."

The earlier findings from Public Health England (PHE) said that people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at around twice the rate of white Britons.

It also found that other minority ethnic groups were at up to 50% higher risk of dying, but the document was criticised for not including any safeguarding measures.

Labour has called the incident a “scandal” and “yet another in a litany of failures to support BAME communities during Covid-19″.

Marsha De Cordova, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, added: “The Government must now urgently publish these recommendations in full and provide an explanation for its lack of transparency on this review. Black Lives Matter is more than just a slogan, we cannot wait any longer for action to tackle racial injustice.”

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