NHS England employers to finish coronavirus assessments for at-risk staff in four weeks

Credit: ITV News

NHS England has ordered hospitals and other NHS employers to complete coronavirus risk assessments for vulnerable staff within the next four weeks.

It follows an ITV News investigation that found the majority of NHS Trusts had not completed full risk assessments for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff - seven weeks after being instructed to do so.

Local NHS employers had been asked to perform risk assessments for staff at a potentially increased risk of contracting the virus.

The recommendation was part of a seven-point-plan outlined by Public Health England on how to better protect disproportionately impacted BAME communities from coronavirus.

With some unfinished, NHS England has now ordered the assessments to be completed for at-risk staff within a month - and for employers to publish figures on their progress.

  • Watch the ITV News investigation into the lack of risk assessments carried out:

In a letter addressed to groups - including NHS trusts, GPs surgeries and dentists - NHS England and NHS Improvement's chief people officer Prerana Issar, medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard ordered the assessments.

The letter said: "As employers, we each have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of our own staff.

"Completing risk assessments for at-risk members of staff is a vital component of this.

"All employers need to make significant progress in deploying risk assessments within the next two weeks and complete them - at least for all staff in at-risk groups - within four weeks."

The letter tells recipients to complete with assessments 'within four weeks'. Credit: NHS

It added: "We recognise the sensitive nature of conversations around individual health and wellbeing.

"But these conversations must take account of the urgency with which we have to ensure our colleagues’ safety."

Employers will now also be required to publish figures on the number and percentage of staff who have been risk-assessed until they are compliant.

They will also need to disclose the number and percentage of BAME staff who have been assessed and the percentage of staff risk-assessed by staff group.

The decision comes after at least 195 frontline workers have died after contracting Covid-19 - including a disproportionate amount of BAME people.

Nurse Ameera Sheikh has been protesting outside Downing Street over the deaths of BAME NHS staff. Credit: PA

Two reports have been published by Public Health England (PHE) in recent weeks which suggested BAME communities are dying from Covid-19 at greater rates than people in white ethnic groups.

The earlier findings from 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 from the virus.

The second report - published following criticism of the first - pointed to a raft of recommendations from stakeholders, including the need to develop "occupational risk assessment tools that can be employed in a variety of occupational settings and used to reduce the risk of employee’s exposure to and acquisition of Covid-19".

This is especially true for BAME workers in health and social care and on the front line in occupations that put them at higher risk, it said.