Responding to the Government’s ‘Quarterly report on progress to address COVID-19 health inequalities’1 published today, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“After four months of near-silence from the Government about what it is doing to address the devastating and disproportionate impact Covid-19 is having on people from BAME communities, this update is long overdue.
“While the report makes recommendations for the future and describes work in several areas that the BMA had long been calling – such as some community initiatives and improving the way deaths are recorded – the key question remains: are BAME people any better protected today from the impact of this virus?
“In the time since Public Health England made its recommendations in June, people from BAME backgrounds have not seen any improvements in the disproportionate adverse impact of this virus on their lives.
“Today, as we sit amid a second wave of infections, we know that about a third of those admitted to intensive care are not white - showing no change since the first peak. Meanwhile, Black and Asian people have been found twice as likely to be infected compared to white people.
“There needs to be more tangible action right now to protect BAME people. This could include providing resources to support individuals and businesses to ensure they have right protective equipment and to ensure their workplaces are Covid secure. With higher numbers of BAME people in low-paid employment or living in deprived areas, it is vital to offer adequate funding that encourages individuals to be tested and to self-isolate if infected, given evidence that many feel that financial loss acts as a deterrent to do so.
“The reference to a new risk assessment tool and an update to the shielded list is all well and good – but what difference does this make to those most at risk if there is no package of support to protect them? Neither does it address the needs of large number of BAME people who are sole traders or working in insecure employment.
“The Community Champions scheme is welcome, but we need to see the reality of culturally competent public health and disease prevention strategies with ownership and trust in communities now so that there are necessary behaviour changes to prevent more from coming to harm.
“Meanwhile it notes the social and economic factors linked to the worrying trend we have seen over the course of the pandemic – including overcrowded housing, deprivation and employment in low-paid frontline jobs – but it’s very thin on detail on how it plans to address these deeply entrenched inequalities.
“The Government describes this report as ‘an important first step’. But for those who have lost friends and loved ones – some in great numbers – this first step should have come months ago, and an action plan should be sprinting ahead by now.
“A ‘progress report’ will not save lives. But action will.”
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.
- Contact the Government Equalities Office for a copy of the report.