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Nurse leaders have called on the government to publish its review into the threat of Covid-19 to people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds “as a matter of urgency”.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock commissioned Public Health England to investigate how factors such as ethnicity, obesity and gender affect how people respond to a coronavirus infection.
“UK governments must move quickly to develop action plans to tackle racial disparities across society”
The inquiry was in part a response to emerging evidence showing that people from BME communities were being disproportionately affected by Covid-19.
The disparity has been particularly prominent in the health and social care workforce, with BME people dying at a higher rate than their white colleagues.
The PHE report was due by the end of May but that deadline has now been missed. The government has given a revised publication date of “this week”.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, pictured above, said: “The Public Health England review must be published as a matter of urgency.
“Every day we go without knowing why BME health and care staff are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 is another day these workers are needlessly put at extra risk.”
She added: “UK governments must move quickly to develop clear, cross-governmental strategy and costed action plans to tackle racial disparities across society.”
Her warning comes after a recent survey carried out by the RCN suggested BME nursing staff were finding it more difficult to access certain iterms of PPE compared to their white counterparts.
There have been reports that the publication may have been pushed back due to racial tensions that have arisen since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the US.
Over the weekend protests to end police brutality against black people took place in London and across the UK, with more expected in the capital on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sky News quoted anonymous government sources suggesting that there was concern about the release of the report being in “too close proximity” to the protests.
The government has denied this claim.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Ministers received initial findings yesterday. They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week.
“It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events.”
A recent study led by the University of Glasgow found that black and south Asian ethnic groups had a higher risk of testing positive with Covid-19 in hospital settings.
Researchers also found that the risks of contracting the infection was mostly unchanged when accounting for pre-existing health conditions, health-related behaviours, such as smoking, and the likelihood of working for the NHS.
They noted that socio-economic disparities partly but not wholly explained ethnic differences in Covid-19 outcomes.
A new national centre has been set up by NHS England and the NHS Confederation called the NHS Race and Health Observatory.
It aims to identify and tackle the challenges facing people from BME backgrounds.