• Staff at greater risk of covid-19 should be ‘risk-assessed’, says NHS England
  • Includes BAME staff who data suggests are being disproportionately affected
  • Comes as government launches review into effects of coronavirus on BAME people

Healthcare leaders should “risk-assess” staff who may be at a greater risk of covid-19, including those from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds, and make “appropriate arrangements”, NHS England has said.

This was outlined in a letter to local NHS organisations today, with the body advising the move on a “precautionary basis” ahead of a national review of the effects of covid-19 on BAME individuals.

The latest figures from NHS England showed that BAME people accounted for 16 per cent of all hospital deaths in England up to 21 April, with those of an Indian heritage being the worst-affected.

The letter said: “Emerging UK and international data suggests that people from BAME backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by covid-19. Public Health England have been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to investigate this.

“In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis, we commend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”

Some trusts are taking their own separate measures in light of the situation. Somerset FT has categorised its BAME workers as “vulnerable and at-risk”, meaning managers will discuss with them whether they feel safe in their work, and has made them a priority for testing and ensuring they fit-tested with FFP3 masks “as soon as possible”.

It is not clear what the risk assessment suggested by NHSE in the letter, about the next “phase” of the virus response, will entail. 

PHE director Kevin Fenton has been asked to lead the government’s new BAME covid-19 review, it is understood, and it is unclear when it will report.

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