This briefing considers the experience of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff working in the NHS and the support they have received following completion of a COVID-19 risk assessment. It has been supported and developed by the NHSEI Chief Nursing Officer’s Nursing and Midwifery BME Action Plan Steering Group.
The briefing explores the types of support provided and emerging learning on what BME staff have found helpful, and also less so, in feeling safe at work and general health and wellbeing. It also puts forward areas for improvement and offers practical advice on how to mitigate risks to staff. Intended for senior health and care leaders, it aims to inform decision-making and influence change.
- In April 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked all employers to risk assess staff at potentially greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and to make appropriate arrangements. This included staff from a BME background, following emerging evidence of a disproportionate impact on BME healthcare professionals.
- While risk assessments have been undertaken, some BME staff have expressed concern that the measure has been tokenistic and failed to lead to sustained change or action.
- Our engagement with NHS equality leads reveals that a diverse range of follow-up interventions have been put in place to help protect, support and engage staff. This includes protective interventions (such as vitamin D provisions), supportive interventions (such as temporary alternate roles) and engagement interventions (such as regular discussions), as well as customised approaches depending on the nature and type of support need.
- While these interventions have been helpful to a degree, our engagement suggests that further work is needed to ensure that staff feel safe and supported at work. This includes revisiting the processes associated with follow-up support, investing in cultural competence learning and prioritising inclusive follow-up support as a strategic imperative on boards’ agendas.