RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair has called for employers across the NHS to take ‘swift and comprehensive’ action to protect BAME staff. She was responding to a new report from Public Health England, which has confirmed that people from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk at dying of COVID-19.
‘Among other findings, the report shows that BAME health care staff in particular face an elevated level of risk, and measures must be taken to ensure there are no further preventable deaths,’ said Dame Donna. ‘Our own recent survey showed that only 43% of BAME nursing staff had enough eye and face protection equipment.
‘Employers across all health care settings must take swift and comprehensive action to support and protect staff. This includes providing effective PPE, fit testing, robust and targeted risk assessments, and redeployment of staff where appropriate. No nurse should be placed at risk of contracting Covid-19 in the course of delivering care.’
Commenting on the broader issues raised by the report, Dame Donna said the RCN was ‘deeply concerned by the impact on particular communities including Bangladeshi, black and other BAME groups.’ She called upon the government to ‘invest in coherent measures to tackle health inequalities and develop a cross-governmental strategy with costed action plans to tackle racial disparities across society.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also welcomed the report which he said was ‘timely’ after the shocking death of George Floyd while in custody of US police officers.
‘Black lives matter, as do those of the poorest areas of our country which have worse health outcomes and we need to make sure all of these considerations are taken into account, and action is taken to level-up the health outcomes of people across this country,’ he said.