Responding to the Government’s latest progress report1 on addressing Covid-19 health inequalities, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“Covid-19 has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on people from black and ethnic minority communities – an issue the BMA has been campaigning on since the very early days of the pandemic, when this deeply concerning trend first became apparent.
“Progress in both recognising and then tackling this, in order to stop more BAME people becoming ill and dying, has been far too slow, with delayed and incomplete reviews and lack of action.
“It’s positive then to see the steps the Government now appears to be taking, in particular around communication and engagement with people from the most at-risk communities, involving trusted voices and accessible channels.
“Of course, the success of this work can only be judged by the impact it is having on the ground, closing the gap between the way Covid affects different communities. And while the report suggests that outcomes have improved in some groups, for others their risk of dying now appears to have increased.
“Black and minority ethnic people still account for 28% of people within critical care with Covid-19 – substantially higher when compared to the overall population. So, the fight is clearly not over and we should not rest until everyone feels protected.
“Crucially, as the vaccination programme continues at pace we face a critical juncture. We know there is lower take-up of vaccines among certain communities, and therefore the Government cannot afford to take its eye off this vitally important issue. Differences in vaccine uptake underline the urgent need for ministers to regain the confidence and trust of communities who feel let down by the Government and authorities.
“The report is clear that higher death rates among many ethnic minorities so far are likely driven by a higher risk of infection in the first place. BAME people are over-represented in frontline occupations, low income jobs and many are self-employed or gig economy workers - with higher levels of infection and death from Covid. They must be provided with better protection from the virus, as well as financial support – including for those asked to self-isolate – to ensure people are not risking their lives and those of their family simply to put food on the table.
“And while short-term measures to address the urgent health crisis must be the priority, there remains the fundamental need to tackle the longstanding structural equalities that have led us to this point. We need to reach a place where no one is more at risk of contracting an illness and dying because of the colour of their skin or their family background."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- For a copy of the report and press release contact the Government Equalities Office.