1. Report highlighting lower uptake of the vaccine by BME NHS staff

A report by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust found that whilst 70.9% of white staff had received the vaccine jab only 58.5% of South Asian staff and 36.8% of black staff had received the same. Further analysis of the South Asian groups found that there was a lower uptake among Pakistani and Bangladeshi healthcare staff (43.2%) when compared to the Indian cohort (60.3%). The uptake of the vaccine by Black Caribbean and Black African staff was similar.

The co-author of the report Prof. Kamlesh Khunti is also a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The report mentions that during the period 9 December 2020 to 3 February 12,278 staff from a total of 19,044 staff had come forward to have the jab.

In light of the findings the authors state:

“Regardless of the underlying mechanisms, these findings give significant cause for concern, as ethnic minority groups (especially those working in healthcare) are at higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV2 [coronavirus] and adverse outcome from COVID-19, yet are not taking up this critical preventative intervention. Furthermore, healthcare workers are an important source of health information for ethnic minority communities and so our findings may also have implications for vaccine uptake in the population at large”.

In addition:

 “These findings have major implications for the effective ongoing delivery of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination programmes, both in HCWs and in the wider population, and should be acted upon urgently to prevent the disparities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic from being allowed to widen further”.

On 15 February 2021, the NHS BME Network was invited by BBC Radio 5 live to participate in a programme about the above report. However, we politely declined given no information has been made available to date concerning how the above findings will/could be acted upon urgently.

2. The Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS)

The Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS) launched this week and conducted by Ipsos MORI, will run for three months until May 2021. It is the UK’s largest survey to document the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdowns on the lives of 17,000 ethnic and religious minority people. The 30 minute survey will target the full range of ethnic and religious minority groups, including Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people and Jewish communities across England, Scotland and Wales.

The survey will be led by the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) in partnership with the University of Manchester, the University of St Andrews and the University of Sussex.

Professor James Nazroo, deputy director of CoDE and EVENS’ co-lead states:

“This ground breaking survey will help shift the narrative on ethnic and religious inequalities in modern Britain. There is an urgency as practitioners and policymakers are crying out for robust and comprehensive scientific evidence that they can use to understand and address the inequalities faced by ethnic and religious minority people. EVENS will provide that evidence”.

We look forward to reviewing the findings in due course.

3. Care Quality Commission (CQC) to explore longstanding concerns over potential ratings bias against BME GPs

In 2019 the GMC published its report “Fair to refer” concerning the disparity between the number of BME and white doctors being referred for fitness to practice concerns. At the time of the review BME doctors were twice as likely to be referred and very little has changed since then.

The report also highlighted that BME GP partners were more likely to receive lower ratings following CQC inspections and that practices led by BME GPs were more likely to be working in deprived areas with less support.

This week the CQC announced that it is looking to collect and monitor ethnicity data on partners as part of its registration process to better understand links between ethnicity and ratings.

We await to see if the evidence supports the suggestion that CQC inspections of practices led by BME GPs are carried out in a discriminatory manner.

4. Last Call for BME volunteers to participate in a focus group session with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

We are looking for BME volunteers who are employed in the NHS or Social Care in ‘lower paid roles’ (AfC paybands 1, 2 and 3) to participate in a focus group session with the EHRC.

As you are aware the EHRC inquiry into racial inequality in health and social care workplaces will consider how BME health and social care workers’ treatment during the pandemic has been influenced by their:

  • Race
  • Employment status
  • Immigration status
  • Working conditions

We are sure you will agree that given the adverse impact of COVID-19 on our BME staff and communities that it is important that we take this opportunity to participate to highlight the issues that stem directly from the institutional racism that exists.

If you are willing to participate please can you let us know by sending an email to nhsbmenetworkuk@gmail.com or alternatively by giving us a call on 07941 698 248.

We look forward to hearing from you.