The impact of COVID-19 on BME communities and health and care staff

23 / 04 / 2020

This briefing considers the evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities and health and care staff. It explores potential underlying factors, recommends areas for improvement and offers practical advice on how to mitigate risks. Intended for senior health and care leaders, it aims to inform decision making and influence change.

Key points

  • Emerging evidence suggests that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate effect on people from BME backgrounds. Early analysis also points to an overrepresentation of BME health and care professionals among coronavirus fatalities.
  • Some BME groups are at higher risk of certain diseases and conditions – this may suggest an increased likelihood of developing COVID-19. A number of BME staff from various socioeconomic backgrounds, including hospital consultants, nurses and healthcare assistants, have died as a result of the virus.
  • Co-morbidities and socio-economic status are being put forward as possible explanations for the high number of people from BME backgrounds affected, but it is important not to assume that correlation equals causation.
  • The NHS Confederation welcomes the government’s announcement of an inquiry into the issue. But further and more immediate action is needed to mitigate risks to BME communities and health and care workers. This need to include an examination of the availability of personal protective equipment, testing, cultural and religious observances and data collection for BME communities.
  • There needs to be better and more transparent collection and reporting of ethnicity data to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on BME patients. This could include recording ethnicity when health and care staff and patients are tested for the virus.
  • The NHS Confederation is supporting NHS England and NHS Improvement to address the impact on BME communities and will involve organisations from across its membership and the BME Leadership Network to do so. We will continue to raise members’ concerns to ensure the NHS and government respond to these issues and mitigate risks.

Download the briefing.

Our COVID-19 support

Find out more about the NHS Confederation's work to support health and care leaders respond to COVID-19. NHS Employers, part of the NHS Confederation, has also produced comprehensive guidance for NHS workforce leaders on COVID-19.

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