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PHE to report on BAME covid deaths this week amid concerns over risk assessment

The government has today published their report on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) coronavirus deaths as Public Health England, NHS England and the RCN have spoken on the issue this week.

Public Health England were due to release the report last week into the number of clinicians from a BAME background that had died from the virus, reviewing thousands of health records to review whether ethnicity affects the chances of infection or death from Covid-19.

It comes as NHS England released updated guidance (compiled by NHS Employers for NHSE) on how employers can assess the risks to BAME workers but crucially has stopped short of endorsing a scoring tool. At the end of April, they advised GP Practices to risk assess their BAME staff, but without endorsing or providing a risk assessment tool it left GP Practices without an approved system of assessment to adequately carry out the required assessment, leaving many confused about how to adequately support their staff. A group of GPs creating their own Covid-19 Risk Assessment scoring system which scored staff into mild, moderate or high-risk based on ethnicity, age, gender, BMI and other factors.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said “We explored whether it was possible to endorse a risk assessment scoring tool, but it became clear that we would not be able to endorse any single such tool nationally”.

The RCN expressed concerns about a risk assessment tool introduced in Wales which does not identify ethnic minority staff as being at sufficiently high risk. The All-Wales Covid-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool was introduced last week by the Welsh government, using a scoring matrix allocating points for individual risk factors. Managers are to discuss with any at-risk staff precautions to ensure they are protected as best as possible.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commissioned the PHE report which reviews thousands of existing health records to collate conclusions on cases  taking into account factors such as age, gender, obesity, deprivation and other factors to assess the increased incidences of death amongst ethnic minorities.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: that Ministers had received initial findings on Monday 1st June and that they “are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week”.

Recent figures from the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre suggested that of nearly 5000 people critically ill with Covid-19 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland whose ethnicity was known, 34 % were from BAME backgrounds.

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