The NHS Confederation’s BME Leadership Network suggests in a new briefing, a suite of actions that health and care organisations could take to safeguard BME people, including BME professionals on the front line, notes Joan Saddler

Not a day goes by without more evidence emerging on the impact of covid-19 on people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Week on week, the data builds and the picture forms of an unforgiving virus that knows no geographic bounds.

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NHS Confederation

Yet questions remain on precisely why BME communities and health and care workers are hardest hit by the novel virus. The answer will not be a single factor. The culprits will be multiple, predicated on deep-seated issues that have haunted us for decades.

While government reviews delve deeper into the “why”, the burning question now is what can be done to safeguard BME people, including BME professionals on the front line as we continue the fight to protect all staff?

The NHS Confederation’s BME Leadership Network has considered some ways forward. In a new briefing, the network suggests a suite of actions that health and care organisations could take. This includes reviewing shielding lists, delivering targeted information campaigns, partnering with BME community organisations and developing risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

It also says that better and more transparent collection and reporting of ethnicity data are needed.

The briefing, which also curates the emerging UK and international evidence, is the first in a series of products from the network on how health and care organisations can support and safeguard BME health and care professionals, patients and communities – during the pandemic and beyond.

It forms part of a programme of work the NHS Confederation is undertaking to address the impact on BME communities and professionals. This includes NHS Employers, which has recently published guidance on carrying out risk assessments for staff, and assisting with NHS England and NHS Improvement’s work programme on the covid-19 impact on BME communities.

If we are to understand all the factors contributing to the deaths in BME communities – and recognise the sacrifice of those who have already died – we must make sure the data, plus the experience and leadership of our communities, are used to drive real change and prevent the issues once again being swept under the carpet.

This will enable us to ensure the NHS and other sectors are reset so that everyone works together to help eliminate this disparity in health outcomes and guarantee equitable access to health and healthcare according to needs for all communities. Successive governments have failed to address the health inequalities that have existed in the UK for decades. It’s long past time to rectify this.