BAME people in east of England make up disproportionate number of hospital deaths

NHS England data has revealed that people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the east of England are more likely to die from coronavirus in hospital than their white counterparts.

During the past few months, concerns had been raised that some ethnic groups in the UK have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths related to the virus.

NHS England said on April 29 that "emerging UK and international data suggest that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19″.

As of April 28, NHS England said there had been 2,259 deaths involving Covid-19 in hospitals in the east of England. Not every death recorded is categorised by ethnicity - 9.3 per cent of deaths recorded are described as "not stated" or "no match".

Of those where the ethnicity is not clearly recorded, 154, or 6.8 percent of deaths, have the ethnicity "not stated" and 55 deaths have the ethnicity stated as "no match".

Of the deaths recorded in the east of England, 1,876 were white, which is 83 per cent of all deaths, or 91.5 percent of those with a recorded ethnicity.

BAME groups account for 163 of the recorded deaths, 7.2 percent of regional Covid-19 deaths, or eight percent of those with a recorded ethnicity.

There were 11 deaths recorded as mixed race, which is 0.5 percent of deaths recorded.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2011 census data provides the most complete information on population and ethnic groups for the area.

Comparing the percentages for deaths involving Covid-19 where the ethnicity of the deceased was known with the 2011 census data in the east of England shows the percentage of deaths reported of Pakistani, Caribbean and "other ethnic groups" are higher than their representation in the population.

The 2011 population comparison shows BAME groups account for 7.3 per cent of the east of England population, but account for 7.2 per cent of all deaths involving Covid-19, or eight per cent excluding deaths with unconfirmed ethnicities.

It has been suggested that an overrepresentation of BAME people employed as key workers and in healthcare could make those demographics more susceptible.

Within healthcare, there is an overrepresentation of BAME employees across east of England hospitals.

In 2019, 21.6 per cent of Cambridge University Hospitals Trust's employees, which includes Addenbrooke's, were BAME.

Similar representation can be seen in the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust workforce which includes Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke hospitals, as well as community clinics. In these hospitals, 21.39 per cent of staff were BAME in 2019.

Nationally BAME workers make up 20.7 per cent of the NHS workforce, which is higher than the percentage of the national working-age population from the same ethnic groups.

The government has launched an investigation into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 Credit: PA

National discussion on the topic also suggests socioeconomic factors may be behind any potential disproportionate impact the pandemic may have on BAME groups.

Discussing possible causes for a higher impact on BAME groups nationally, social inequalities lecturer Dr Ali Meghji, from the University of Cambridge, said racial inequality can have health consequences which may be perceived during the pandemic.

"It is well known that racial inequality has negative health consequences, and many of these consequences make black and other racial minorities more vulnerable to coronavirus," he said.

Dr Meghi cited a recent study which suggested 46 per cent of Bangladeshi and 40 per cent of black British people live in poverty.

He also pointed to environmental and psychological factors playing a role in the overall health of BAME communities. "We know that racial minorities in Britain encounter higher levels of stress due to racial stereotypes and insults," he said.

"Black Brits are more likely to live in areas with high air pollution and consequently are more exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide. We know that areas with higher levels of nitrogen dioxide have higher rates of death for coronavirus."

Another factor is suggested to be issues with housing. Dr Meghi said: "Not only do black and Asian Brits disproportionately live in overcrowded housing - where self-isolation from the rest of one's family is near impossible if one develops symptoms - but they are also more likely to live with three generations in the same house, complicating 'shielding' strategies for older people."

The government has said it will publish its findings about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people from ethnic minority backgrounds by the end of May.

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