Nearly one in five emergency clinicians from a BAME background had not been risk assessed by their trust during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is according to a recent survey from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).

The survey, conducted in December 2020, also found that a higher proportion of BAME respondents had not received any PPE training. Further, almost half of BAME respondents reported they failed fit testing either “very often”, “often” or “sometimes”, compared to just over one-third of white respondents.

The survey has also highlighted general dissatisfaction with the risk assessments that have been conducted, with respondents citing general inadequacy and a lack of consideration of ethnicity.

Dr Hodon Abdi, Co-Chair RCEM’s Ethnic, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, said: “Risk assessments for staff from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have clearly been inadequate, threatening their safety. These staff were more likely to lack access to inadequate PPE while being in contact with suspected or confirmed covid cases.”

Following the survey, the RCEM have called for NHS trusts to:

  1. Monitor risk and act quickly on any concerns raised by staff members.
  2. Ensure all staff, including agency staff, working in Emergency Departments are risk assessed through a face-to-face review.
  3. Report ethnic breakdown of the number of staff risk assessments completed, and percentages of total risk assessments completed of the whole Trust in your Board Assurance Framework. 
  4. NHS Trust Boards should rigorously scrutinise their Trust’s policies around occupational risk and ensure adequate processes are in place to support ethnic minority staff.

Dr David Chung, also Co-Chair of the EDI Committee, said: “The evidence is clear. Staff from ethnic minority groups are at a disproportionate risk of mortality from covid. Ethnicity and/or race must be recognised and included as independent risk factors for all staff.”

Dr Chung also called for NHS management, trust boards and regulators to take action necessary to ensure all staff working in an Emergency Department are protected. Such suggestions include fit testing, PPE training, ensuring staff can raise concerns, providing adequate risk-assessments, providing information on PPE and ensuring ethnic minority staff are supported.

“A person’s race or ethnicity should not increase their occupational risk,” said Dr Chung, “but this is still sadly the reality, and this must change. We must look at forward planning, starting with the vaccine roll-out; we cannot allow the same disparities to occur.”

Read the full report here