RCN demands government avoids further delays to protect BAME nursing staff from COVID-19

16 Jun 2020

New Public Health England report sets out recommendations to tackle disproportionate impact of the pandemic.

Overseas nurses working

The RCN has repeated its demand for swift action to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff from COVID-19, calling for UK governments to reflect on their failure to safeguard workers.

Public Health England today (16 June) released a further report on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities.

The initial report, published earlier this month, showed that people from BAME backgrounds were more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 than people from white ethnicities. BAME healthcare workers in particular face an elevated level of risk.

Today’s document confirms that black and Asian people are at greatest risk, and includes a review of published studies and summary of recommendations from stakeholders. It concludes that “historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work” may contribute to BAME communities facing a higher risk. For healthcare workers, this could include work environments that create obstacles to raising safety concerns.

The RCN was one of the stakeholders sharing evidence and concerns with PHE. RCN leaders highlighted ongoing concerns about staff safety and reiterated findings from recent RCN research that revealed racial disparities for nursing staff accessing PPE and related training.

Susan Masters, RCN Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice, said: “If UK governments had acted on the advice of previous reviews and reports, BAME nursing staff across the UK would have been better protected going into this pandemic.

“We’ve been calling on employers in all health care settings to take swift and comprehensive action to support and protect BAME staff through targeted risk assessments. These new recommendations show clearly why they must take place to avoid needless loss of life.

“In terms of the larger systemic issues in England outlined in the report, the UK government must invest in coherent measures to tackle health inequalities and develop a cross-governmental strategy. There must be costed action plans to tackle racial disparities across society. Much research has already been undertaken in this area, and what the government must do now is act.”

Page last updated - 18/06/2020