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The pandemic has thrown fresh attention on the long-standing health inequalities related to ethnicity in England. This new focus is surely welcome, though it is scant consolation for the trauma and harm done to swathes of our society.

The disparity in vaccine uptake by ethnicity is particularly staggering. It is not wholly surprising, there were plenty of voices warning that uptake among people of some ethnic backgrounds may be below that seen in the white majority.

What happens in wider society will be seen in the NHS and it is well known that there are disparities in uptake between staff of different ethnicities. The degree of variation reported at one trust in London, however, is significant.

Around one in three black Caribbean staff members at London North West University Healthcare Trust have taken up the offer of a vaccine. That compares with eight in 10 of their white colleagues.

It is an extraordinary gulf and demonstrates that even at this stage of the vaccine programme, it is still proving a challenge to overcome these inequalities.

The trust is banking on using vaccine advocates – volunteers with the time and mandate to work closely with particular staff groups to address and assuage any concerns. These advocates appear to have some success so far. We must hope that this continues.

Boris’s big name

Boris Johnson has appointed a new health adviser, well known to NHS health policy circles. Samantha Jones – former NHS England director and hospital chief – is to leave the private sector and move into the civil service in 10 Downing Street.

On this week’s HSJ Health Check podcast, we discuss what this could mean for the NHS, and for other movements at the top of the health policy tree.

We also cover more significant people moves in the health service this week and an update on the government’s ‘40 new hospitals’ building plan; with two new builds accelerated we ask what this could mean for the original projects. Can we expect a bun fight for the money? 

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