BAME doctors being placed at risk due to lack of Covid-19 risk assessments, BMA survey reveals

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Published: Monday 22 June 2020

More than a third of BAME doctors in the UK are still not being given access to potentially life-saving Covid-19 risk assessments, according to a new BMA survey1.

The findings are particularly troubling with the same survey revealing BAME doctors are still less likely to feel fully protected from coronavirus compared to their white colleagues2 (29% compared to 46%), and far more likely to often feel pressured into treating patients without the proper protective equipment3 (7% compared to 2.5%).

While the survey found a worrying number of BAME doctors were still not being risk assessed, the results did however show they are now more likely to have received risk assessments compared to their white colleagues.

The BMA’s latest tracker survey was issued to members between June 16 and June 18 and received nearly 7,500 responses overall.

The findings come nearly two months after NHS England issued recommendations that risk assessments should be carried out for all staff as a precautionary measure when it became apparent that BAME staff were becoming severely ill and dying in disproportionate numbers to their representation in the NHS workforce.

In May, NHS Employers updated their guidance on risk assessments to include ethnicity as a risk factor, following calls from the BMA.

The BMA’s own record of doctors who have sadly lost their lives after contracting Covid-19 shows that more than 90% are from BAME backgrounds.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“It is extremely troubling that more than a third of BAME doctors still say they are not aware of any risk assessments at their workplace. Equally disturbing is the fact that BAME colleagues are nearly three times more likely to report feeling regularly pressured to treat patients despite not having the right level of protection.

While the NHS has listened to calls by the BMA to direct all providers to risk assess healthcare workers who are most at risk, it is clear there is still much work to be done to properly mitigate against the risks faced by BAME staff.

“The BMA has been calling for a national system or tool for risk assessments to be put in place in England, however, this has still not been delivered, leading to a lack of consistency and proper mitigation of risk in the assessments that are being carried out.

“It is vital that healthcare workers are properly assessed so that those at high risk can be redeployed to areas where they are less at risk or work remotely, while still providing a vital service to the NHS.

“Furthermore, the BMA has previously highlighted how BAME staff can be less confident in raising concerns and more fearful of being blamed if something goes wrong. Employers must ensure that these doctors are fully supported in coming forward and speaking out.

“Ultimately, it is crucial that lessons are learned from this pandemic - especially with the risk of a second wave - so that we act to ensure that the colour of your skin does not dictate your chance of survival.”

Ends

 

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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.

  1. 7,497 (5,955 in England) doctors took part in the survey between 16 and 18 June.
    Of the BAME doctors that responded to the question 'Have you been risk assessed in your place of work to test if you might be at increased risk from contact with Coronavirus patients in your current role?':
  • 11% said they had been risk assessed in person (including occupational health)
  • 47% said a desk-based risk assessment had been undertaken
  • 36% said they were not aware of any risk assessment in their place of work
  • 3% were told they did not need a risk assessment
  • 3% said they were not in a role that requires a risk assessment.

Of the white doctors that responded to the same question:

  • 7% said they had been risk assessed in person (including occupational health)
  • 41% said a desk-based risk assessment had been undertaken
  • 41% said they were not aware of any risk assessment in their place of work
  • 4% were told they did not need a risk assessment
  • 7% said they were not in a role that requires a risk assessment.

2. Of the BAME doctors that responded to the question ‘Taking everything into account, do you feel safely protected from coronavirus infection in your place of work?

  • 29% said fully
  • 58% said partly
  • 8% said not at all
  • 5% said they didn’t know

Of the white doctors responding to the same question

  • 29% said fully
  • 58% said partly
  • 8% said not at all
  • 5% said they didn’t know

3. Of the BAME doctors that responded to the question ‘Have you ever felt pressured to see a patient without adequate protection?’:

  • 7% said often
  • 32% said sometimes
  • 61% said never

Of the white doctors who responded to the same question:

  • 2% said often
  • 17% said sometimes
  • 81% said never

4. Read more about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME healthcare workers.

5. BMA guidance on risk assessments.

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