COVID-19: the risk to BAME doctors

We look at the evidence for increased risk for black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors and provide advice about what workplace support to expect, suggest actions for employers, and explain what the BMA is doing.

Location: England
Audience: All doctors
Last reviewed: 24 August 2021
COVID virus illustration

Current evidence for COVID-19 shows that those from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background and males have been disproportionately impacted, with age and specific underlying conditions also associated with more severe illness. 

This is deeply worrying and highlights the importance of ensuring that urgent action is taken to protect members of the BAME community.

The BMA is working hard to lobby on behalf of BAME doctors and to support them during the COVID-19 crisis.


The evidence so far

Advice for doctors from BAME backgrounds

Risk assessments

NHS England has advised that employers should risk-assess all staff. Ethnicity should be considered in combination with other risk factors, including age, gender, and co-morbidities. The assessment should consider whether adjustments to work or redeployment might be appropriate.

Our guidance on risk assessments explains what doctors should expect from their workplace.

Your employer should provide you with PPE that meets your needs. Your risk assessment should cover what PPE alternatives are available which are compatible with your religious dress practices.


The BMA has also raised concerns that BAME staff may be disproportionately affected by PPE shortages. Our guidance sets out a process for what to do if you have inadequate PPE.

We encourage any members with concerns about PPE, or feeling pressured to work without adequate PPE, to please contact the BMA.


We know that concerns about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 is causing additional stress and anxiety for some BAME doctors. We have produced guidance on wellbeing.

Amid the grief for the deaths of our colleagues, many BAME and IMG doctors are, very understandably, worried about their own safety… the BMA is here to support you.
Anil Jain, consultant
wellbeing illustration
Your wellbeing

We have a range of services to support you.

  • Counselling
  • Peer support
  • UK wellbeing support directory

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0330 123 1245

View our services

Actions for employers

  • Provide comprehensive risk assessments for all staff.
  • Prioritise high risk staff for testing and antibody testing and vaccine if/when available.
  • Develop a culture where all staff feel empowered to speak out.
  • Tackle any discrimination that may occur in the workplace.
  • Look at why BAME staff are under-represented in senior roles within the NHS and improve equality and diversity in these roles.


What the BMA is doing

  • Protecting and supporting doctors from BAME backgrounds is one of our key priorities - we continue to lobby extensively on this issue.
  • We are calling for the Government to develop an action plan on how it will protect BAME communities and for greater consideration of the role that structural discrimination plays in how COVID-19 affects people from BAME backgrounds differently.
  • Called for and secured a risk assessment framework to ensure vulnerable and BAME staff are protected. We also published risk assessment guidance and tools for doctors that take account of ethnicity as a factor. 
  • Called for and secured a government enquiry into the disproportionate effects of COVID on BAME staff and patients.
  • Secured the right to remain for the families of overseas doctors who tragically die as a result of caring for patients with COVID-19.
  • Lobbied for enhanced death in service benefits to support families who lose loved ones as a result of COVID-19.
Need help? For questions about any aspect of your working life, our advisers are here to help you. Opening times: 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday (excluding UK bank holidays) and 9am - 12pm on Saturdays.