In April 2020, all NHS employers were asked to risk assess staff at potentially greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and to make appropriate arrangements. This included staff from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background. This briefing highlights examples of how NHS organisations and integrated care systems have supported staff following these assessments.
It has been supported and developed in partnership with the Chief Nursing Officer’s (CNO) Nursing and Midwifery BME Action Plan Steering Group and NHS England and NHS Improvement’s regional heads of equality and diversity.
Across England, NHS providers, commissioners and integrated care systems have taken steps to respond to the needs of staff at potentially greater risk of contracting COVID-19. This has included staff from a black and minority ethnic background.
Where organisations conducted risk assessments for BME staff following the April 2020 mandate, feedback from staff has been mixed and pointed to a range of issues. Despite the mixed picture, positive examples of post-assessment support have been highlighted across the country for their cultural sensitivity, empathy from managers and swift action to make work-related adjustments. This briefing showcases such examples.
Engagement with regional heads of equality and diversity and local NHS organisations has highlighted the importance of going beyond the risk assessment tool to provide meaningful support to staff. Where behaviours have been changed and investment placed in face-to-face interactions, this has yielded the greatest benefit to BME staff.
As the NHS enters the next stage of the pandemic, working with staff to make sense of and understand the challenges they face will be crucial, as will long-term action. This will support efforts to retain – and sustain – staff after a grueling 12 months, and to redress long-standing issues that have affected the BME workforce for several years.
By reviewing examples of positive post-assessment support, we have identified five key lessons on how the NHS can better engage with, safeguard and support staff from a BME background.