Seven-point plan outlined on how to protect disproportionately impacted BAME communities from coronavirus

A seven-point plan on how to better protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities from coronavirus has been outlined by Public Health England.

The recommendations follow a review published at the start of June, showing that Covid-19 kills disproportionately high numbers of people from ethnic minorities.

The report found racism and social inequality have contributed to the increased risk of BAME individuals contracting and dying from Covid-19.

Among a range of factors, it found historic racism may mean people are discriminated against when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) and may result in people from BAME backgrounds being less likely to seek care or demand better protection.

Aimed at "improving the lives and experiences", PHE's recommendations include proper collection of ethnicity data across the NHS and social care sectors, improving representation among workforces, and specific Covid-19 risk assessments for staff.

  • Dr Zubaida Haque says it has taken too long for the recommendations to be drawn up:

Nafia Guljar, who lost her dad Muhammed to the virus, said she doesn't think the government has done enough to protect ethnic minority people.

"I think it's structural racism that's embedded in these policies, in access to health care within these communities. I don't think it's anything as obvious as out and out racism, but it's a lot more insidious than that because it's embedded within all our health care systems," she told ITV News.

"We do really need to learn from this situation, the government needs to understand that there are massive inequalities within our society and we do really need policies in place that will protect these needs to be done in a clear way and involvement with people from these communities."

Tuesday's release follows criticism of the initial PHE report which lacked any recommendations cited in its original terms of reference.

The first publication prompted representatives of 30 black, Asian and minority ethnic medical organisations to write a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch expressing their grievances.

At the weekend, shadow justice secretary David Lammy said it was a "scandal" that the recommendations in the study had initially been "buried".

In Tuesday's release, PHE suggested the following be introduced:

  • Routine ethnicity data collection and recording across medical setting, including mandatory collection of ethnicity data on death certification.

  • More research to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.

  • Improving access, experience, and outcomes for BAME communities across care systems.

  • Quickly develop a "culturally competent" occupational risk assessment tool to reduce the risk of BAME staff's exposure to, and contraction of, coronavirus.

  • Better Covid-19 education and prevention campaigns.

  • Specific health promotion and disease prevention programmes.

  • An effective Covid-19 recovery strategy that actively reduces wider health inequality.

The introduction of specific risk assessments is something British Medical Association (BMA) Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, has previously told ITV News needed to be introduced.

  • Dr Chaand Nagpaul previously called for risk profiling and assessments:

The report was compiled with input from more that 4000 individuals "with a broad range of interests in BAME issues," according to PHE.

Contributors pointed to "racism and discrimination" as root causes affecting "health, and exposure risk and disease progression risk" among communities and specifically BAME key workers.

An exclusive ITV News survey previously found BAME medics and healthcare workers thought "systemic discrimination" on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis may be a factor in the disproportionate number of their colleagues dying from the virus.

"Fear of diagnosis and death from Covid-19 was identified as negatively impacting how BAME groups took up opportunities to get tested and their likelihood of presenting early for treatment and care," according to the review.

It added: "For many BAME groups lack of trust of NHS services and health care treatment resulted in their reluctance to seek care on a timely basis, and late presentation with disease."

The PHE data also suggested BAME individuals "may be more exposed to Covid-19" as a result of factors including occupation, population density, use of public transport, the makeup of households, and housing conditions.

The UK currently has the third highest death toll from the virus worldwide, behind the USA and Brazil. Credit: PA

In Tuesday's release, PHE noted contributors "clearly and consistently" raised "explicit consideration of ethnicity, racism and structural disadvantage" as key in any response to the crisis.

Without which, the outcome could be "poor health" or "ineffective intervention".

Report authors said "no work was done to review the evidence base behind" these comments but that the recommendations outlined were based on the contributions.

Nurse Ameera Sheikh has been protesting outside Downing Street for the release of Public Health England's review into BAME NHS staff's deaths. Credit: PA

The final point of the plan, referring to using recovery from the coronavirus pandemic to better protect BAME communities across healthcare inequality, feeds into an acknowledgement in the report of wider inequality.

The report states: "Ethnic inequalities in health and wellbeing in the UK existed before Covid-19 and the pandemic has made these disparities more apparent and undoubtedly exacerbated them."

In response to Tuesday's publication, a spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office said: "This valuable insight will help inform the next stages of our work to tackle the disparities highlighted by the Public Health England review.

"This work will be led by the Minister for Equalities as we look to build on the good work that is already being done to protect our communities from the impact of the coronavirus."

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