Action plan needed to tackle COVID-19’s effect on BAME community

by Peter Blackburn

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul has demanded the Government address the effect of COVID-19 on BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities – calling for immediate timelines for action plans instead of further consultations and reviews.

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 18 June 2020
Portrait of BMA chair Chaand Nagpaul

Speaking at the Commons’ women and equalities committee yesterday, Dr Nagpaul (pictured) asked the Government to implement the recommendations from a recent PHE (Public Health England) review urgently.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Our view as a profession, and my view, is that we’ve had enough reports, we’ve had enough reviews, we’ve had previous commissions. We know what the problems are. What we now need is an action plan. That’s what we asked for from the publication of the PHE review so each of those recommendations now needs to be populated with timescales of action plans and what needs to be done.

‘Remember, the Government commissioned the PHE review – as the commissioner it now needs to respond not with some other commission but really with what is going to be done now. We’ve discussed many of the issues can be [addressed] very quickly and others may take some time. That’s what needs to happen.’

It comes after a second, delayed PHE report urged better data collection about ethnicity and religion, further research with the participation of ethnic minority communities to understand the increased risk and counter it, improving BAME groups’ access to, experiences of, and outcomes from NHS and other services and developing risk assessments for BAME workers exposed to a large section of the general public or those infected with the virus.

Long-term change

The report also called for culturally sensitive education and prevention campaigns and health messages and for the Government to ensure that COVID-19 recovery strategies actively address inequalities to create long-term change.

It followed a first PHE report which largely reiterated previously available statistics around the effect of COVID-19 on people from BAME backgrounds. The BMA and other groups called for the second report to be published as a matter of urgency.

Speaking at the committee Dr Nagpaul said the BMA had called for the Government to investigate the effect of COVID-19 on BAME groups in early April, after it was known that the first 10 doctors who had died from COVID-19 were from a BAME background. The BMA had also asked for immediate mitigations to prevent further avoidable ill health and death among BAME doctors.

Dr Nagpaul told the committee that 63 per cent of healthcare workers who have died were from a BAME background and that the BMA had been calling for practical solutions to protect BAME workers since April.

Dr Nagpaul said that, as well as breaking down data on deaths by ethnicity, real-time data was needed on occupational factors of all healthcare workers who were hospitalised with COVID-19, such as whether they had access to personal protective equipment.

Watch the parliamentary session