Coronavirus: New guidance issued to protect black, Asian and ethnic minorities working in English hospitals

May 28, 2020

The NHS is issuing all trusts in England with a risk assessment tool and risk assessment scoring chart for employers to use on their Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff during the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News can reveal.

It is the first time that NHS England has offered such a framework, specifically relating to protecting BAME staff working in hospitals.

The new guidance - due to be sent out today - comes as latest analysis from Sky News suggests that 65% of all health and social care workers who have died with COVID-19 so far, were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

In a draft version of the risk assessment tool, seen by Sky News, it will enable managers to determine whether BAME staff are at high risk of catching the virus, and if they need to be redeployed to work in a COVID negative area.

In some instances, staff could be sent home to work remotely.

The scoring chart will mean employers can work off a point based system to assess the risk of an employee working in our hospitals during the outbreak.

A month ago, on 29 April, Sky News revealed that the guidance for employers around BAME staff within the NHS had changed.

NHS England acknowledged that the BAME workforce were at "greater risk", and should be risk assessed by employers.

This new framework and assessment tool allows for this to happen fairly across the board.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust implemented its own tool to risk assess all medical staff who were working in the Trust.

More than 60% of the medical workforce is from a BAME background, and a large number of these work as front line staff.

Speaking to Sky News, the medical director at the NHS Trust, Dr Sanjay Arya, said: "We decided all the staff should have a risk assessment, this way we have greater acceptance by everybody.

"We found that there was no risk assessment tool in the country which took ethnicity into consideration, so we created our own to identify those who were at higher risk", he added.

"Those who are at high risk are taken off working in a COVID environment and redeployed into the green area where non-COVID patients are treated. Or in some instances, they are told to go home and work from home instead."

Dr Arya said the new tool and framework from the NHS will be welcomed, but NHS Trusts could have done with it earlier to protect lives of medical staff on the front line.

He also claimed it was a "challenge" to backfill staff who needed to be redeployed, and that was why many trusts would be put off carrying out risk assessments.

He continued: "I know trusts in the North West that won't do risk assessments because they're scared their service will collapse, but that is not the case.

"It is short-sightedness for trusts to think their hospitals will be under jeopardy by doing risk assessments.

"It's a challenge to backfill BAME staff who are redeployed, because they're at greater risk and it's a challenge that the whole of the NHS will face.

"But you have to think about the long term, and protecting staff for the years ahead.

"Healthcare professionals are going the extra mile during this crisis to make sure the services are running and making sure the patients are safe.

"This is the beauty of the NHS."

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Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World - a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

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