Call for more evidence on COVID-19 and ethnic minorities

  • Peter Russell, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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A Government review into whether COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people must be backed by evidence, the doctors' union said.

The Government has pledged to investigate why ethnic minorities appear to be worst-hit by COVID-19.

An analysis by Sky News found that of 54 front line health and social care workers in England and Wales who have died with COVID-19, 70% were from BAME communities.

The investigation revealed that 4 of the 5 health trusts in England that have recorded the most deaths so far cover areas with some of the highest combined South Asian and black populations.

Many of these were in London and the West Midlands, which together account for almost half of all deaths in England.

Preliminary research by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that up until 10th April, 34% of critically ill coronavirus patients in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.

That compared with 14% of the UK population being from those backgrounds according to the 2011 census, it said.

A Government review into whether COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people must be backed by evidence, the doctors' union said.

The Government has pledged to investigate why ethnic minorities appear to be worst-hit by COVID-19.

An analysis by Sky News found that of 54 front line health and social care workers in England and Wales who have died with COVID-19, 70% were from BAME communities.

The investigation revealed that 4 of the 5 health trusts in England that have recorded the most deaths so far cover areas with some of the highest combined South Asian and black populations.

Many of these were in London and the West Midlands, which together account for almost half of all deaths in England.

Preliminary research by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that up until 10th April, 34% of critically ill coronavirus patients in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.

That compared with 14% of the UK population being from those backgrounds according to the 2011 census, it said.

The research was based on 3883 patients from intensive care units.

Latest Data

At a briefing this week, Prof Chris Whitty, the Government's chief medical adviser, said: "It's absolutely critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so that we can help to protect them."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: "We are pleased that the Government has heeded the BMA's call for this review. However, if the review is to have any meaningful impact, it needs to be informed with real-time data to understand why and how this deadly virus can have such a tragic disproportionate toll on our BAME communities and healthcare workers. This must include daily updates on ethnicity, circumstance and all protected characteristics of all patients in hospital as well as levels of illness in the community, which is not currently recorded.

"The Government must take every necessary step to address this devastating disparity and protect all sectors of the population equally and now. That is why the Government must send a directive to every hospital telling them to record the ethnicity of patients who are admitted and succumb to COVID-19 immediately.

"It also means taking vital steps now to protect our BAME communities until we can develop a detailed understanding of the threats they face. This could include that those at greatest risk, including older and retired doctors, are not working in potentially infectious settings.

"A failure to take such steps will mean that the heart-breaking questions of the families, friends, and colleagues of those who have died before their time will remain. We stand ready to play our part, to fight this inequality, and help protect all doctors and health and care staff."

Adapted from Medscape UK.