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BAME nursing staff experiencing greater PPE shortages despite COVID-19 risk warnings

27 May 2020

A survey of RCN members shows that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff are more likely to be left without PPE.

Protective equipment including gloves, a mask and goggles

Amid warnings that BAME nursing staff may be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, an RCN survey reveals that they are more likely to struggle to secure adequate PPE while at work.

The latest RCN member-wide survey shows that for nursing staff working in high-risk environments (including intensive and critical care units), only 43% of respondents from a BAME background said they had enough eye and face protection equipment. This is in stark contrast to 66% of white British nursing staff.

There were also disparities in access to fluid-repellent gowns and in cases of nursing staff being asked to re-use single-use PPE items.

The survey found similar gaps for those working in non-high-risk environments. Meanwhile, staff reported differences in PPE training, with 40% of BAME respondents saying they had not had training compared with just 31% of white British respondents.

Nearly a quarter of BAME nursing staff said they had no confidence that their employer is doing enough to protect them from COVID-19, compared with only 11% of white British respondents.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “It is simply unacceptable that we are in a situation where BAME nursing staff are less protected than other nursing staff.

“These results reinforce our call for BAME nursing staff to have specific risk assessments to reflect the risks they face as a result of COVID-19.

“All of our nursing staff must have the protection they need, and action must be taken urgently to ensure they are all kept safe. We look forward to getting more answers from Public Health England’s investigation into the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on BAME groups.”

Page last updated - 28/02/2022