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COVID-19: Many trusts have not done risk assessments for ethnic minority staff

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Some NHS trusts in England are yet to complete /cOVID-19 risk assessments for their staff from ethnic minority groups more than two months after the NHS first told them to do so, an investigation by The BMJ has found.

On 29 April NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, wrote to all NHS leaders telling them to carry out risk assessments and make “appropriate arrangements” to protect ethnic minority staff, amid growing evidence that they were at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

However, The BMJ asked England’s 140 acute care trusts for details of risk assessments they had carried out and what subsequent actions they had put in place. Seventy trusts responded. Of these, 27 (39%) said that assessments were yet to be completed for all ethnic minority staff, and 43 (61%) indicated that assessments had been completed. But the other 70 trusts were unable to provide a response within the 20 day deadline, citing “unprecedented challenges” posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is not known what stage they are at in risk assessing staff.

Commenting on The BMJ’s findings, Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA’s chair of council, said, “Clearly, we know that a significant number of doctors have not been risk assessed. It is a shame that it has taken so long, because the risk assessments and mitigations would have been most useful and impactful during the peak of the virus.”

Doctors’ leaders have suggested that systemic race inequalities in the workplace may have exacerbated delays in risk assessing staff. Nagpaul said, “The BMA survey found that doctors from a BAME [black, Asian, and minority ethnic] background felt under more pressure to see patients without adequate protection. So it does beg the question of whether there’s also been this added factor of BAME healthcare staff feeling unable to demand their right to being assessed and protected."

“This is something the NHS needs to tackle. This is an issue that predates covid. It’s vital that we have an NHS where anyone is able to voice their concerns. No one should have to suffer or have fear in silence.”

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Source: The BMJ, 10 July 2020

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