Nurse claims minority workers being pressured to work on coronavirus

Senior NHS nurse claims ethnic minority health workers are being pressured to work on coronavirus wards more than their white colleagues

  • Carol Cooper said staff members from BAME backgrounds are ‘terrified’ 
  • Claimed they were being pulled off their usual wards to work on Covid-19
  • Ms Cooper is calling for a ‘centre for ethnic health’ to be implemented in the UK 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

A senior NHS nurse has claimed that healthcare professionals from Black Asian and Ethnic Minority groups (BAME) are having to work on coronavirus wards more than their white colleagues.

It comes as the British Medical Association launched an inquiry into why people from BAME backgrounds are more susceptible to such respiratory conditions.

Carol Cooper, who is the head of equality, diversity and human rights at Birmingham Community Hospital said her staff were ‘terrified’ because of the current pandemic.

She said: ‘BAME staff feel that they are being put on Covid wards and exposed to patients with Covid over and above their colleagues.

‘Some are saying they are being taken from the wards that they usually work on and put on the Covid wards and they feel that there is a bias – the same bias that existed before they are feeling is now influencing their being appointed and they are terrified, everybody is terrified’.

Carol Cooper (pictured above), who is the head of equality, diversity and human rights at Birmingham Community Hospital has claimed that workers from BAME backgrounds are being moved onto Covid-19 wards

She highlighted that she understood everyone across the NHS was frightened but added that ‘a focus on equality needed to be maintained’. 

Informal information on deaths suggest those from BAME backgrounds were overrepresented, noting that the first 10 doctors to have died after testing positive were from BAME backgrounds.

The government last week announced that it will be launching a formal review into the impact of the coronavirus on people from BAME backgrounds, including staff, although the timescale of the inquiry is not clear.

This is while a report by Professor Richard Webber, from Newcastle University, and writer and former Labour Party politician, Trevor Phillips stated that areas with large ethnic minority populations make up more than three quarters of England’s coronavirus hotspots.

By Sam Blanchard for MailOnline

Areas with large ethnic minority populations make up more than three quarters of England’s coronavirus hotspots, a report has revealed.

But numbers coming from Muslim communities in areas which could be expected to be hard-hit are low, and cultural habits may be protecting England’s Muslims from the fast-spreading disease.

That’s according to a report by Professor Richard Webber, from Newcastle University, and writer and former Labour Party politician, Trevor Phillips. 

Trevor Phillips wrote in an editorial accompanying the report: ‘Maybe there is a revelation to be had here; if one key to stopping transmission of the virus is hand washing, might a faith community many of whose members ritually wash before five-times-a-day prayers have something to teach the rest of us?’

The report points out that while areas with high proportions of non-white people make up most of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots, Asian Muslim areas, largely, do not.

Blackburn, Bradford, Luton, Rochdale and Rotherham, Mr Philips said, are ‘conspicuous by their absence’ on the list of worst-hit places by the coronavirus as both non-white and poor areas.

He suggests that regular hand-washing before prayer, a young average age and fewer than one in three Muslim women being in work may offer the population ongoing protection from COVID-19.

The report comes as Public Health England launches an inquiry into why non-white people appear to be worse affected by the disease – intensive care reports show that 34.5 per cent of critically ill patients come from ethnic minority groups, despite only making up around 14 per cent of the population.

Scientists say black and Asian people may be at greater risk of catching the disease because they’re more likely to live in densely-populated cities and work in people-facing jobs such as public transport or the NHS. 

 

It also revealed that numbers coming from Muslim communities in areas which could be expected to be hard-hit are low, and cultural habits may be protecting England’s Muslims from the fast-spreading disease.

The report points out that while areas with high proportions of non-white people make up most of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots, Asian Muslim areas, largely, do not.

Blackburn, Bradford, Luton, Rochdale and Rotherham, Mr Philips said, are ‘conspicuous by their absence’ on the list of worst-hit places by the coronavirus as both non-white and poor areas.

He suggests that regular hand-washing before prayer, a young average age and fewer than one in three Muslim women being in work may offer the population ongoing protection from COVID-19.

The report comes as Public Health England launches an inquiry into why non-white people appear to be worse affected by the disease – intensive care reports show that 34.5 per cent of critically ill patients come from ethnic minority groups, despite only making up around 14 per cent of the population. 

Ms Cooper added: ‘People are dying, I personally get calls every single day about people that I know who have died and so for me this is such an important issue’.

Scientists have also said that people from BAME backgrounds are at a ‘greater risk’ from coronavirus because these communities were more likely to have ‘a number of comorbidities’ such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sickle cell, thalassaemia and lupus.

And greater numbers of non-white people working in public-facing jobs may increase their risk.

44 per cent of NHS medical workers, for example, are racial minorities, and the Webber Phillips report suggests ‘black transport and security workers’.

The most recent report by ICNARC (Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre) showed just 65.5 per cent of patients were white. Nationally, 86 per cent of the population is white, according to Census data from 2011.

Asians made up 14.9 per cent of the 4,873 patients in the intensive care report, but 7.5 per cent of the population, and black people 11.2 per cent (3.3 per cent population).

A total of 8.4 per cent of the patients were mixed race or ‘other’. 

Death data from NHS England is slightly less damning – of the 13,918 people deaths recorded by Sunday, April 19, 17 per cent were among minorities (2,349).

This is closer to the 14 per cent of the population ethnic minorities made up in 2011, but still disproportionate, and 10 per cent of the deaths were still uncategorised.

Ms Cooper also warned that the pandemic is ‘shining a light on the inequalities which are part of the system in which we exist’.

‘Many of us knew that BAME people would be overrepresented – given their proportion of the population – in the mortality and morbidity figures because of the comorbidities that exist in our communities.

Sweden has managed to keep its daily infection rate at around 60 per million people a day for the last week. In the UK it has been 70 per million and in Spain it has been around 90 per million

INQUIRY LAUNCHED INTO ‘DISPROPORTIONATE’ EFFECT ON NON-WHITE PEOPLE

Public Health England and the NHS have launched an inquiry into why ethnic minority citizens have been ‘disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. 

At least 17 per cent of people who have died of the coronavirus in NHS hospitals have been non-white, along with 34.5 per cent of intensive care patients. However, minorities only make up around 14 per cent of the population of England. 

The first 10 doctors to die in the UK from COVID-19 were all from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – with ancestry from regions including Asia, the Middle East and Africa, a figure Labour described as ‘deeply disturbing’.  

BAME staff make up 44 per cent of medical personnel and Labour and the British Medical Association were among those calling for an inquiry.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said last week: It is absolutely critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so we can help to protect them.’

He said that while it was clear age, male gender and having other health problems were clear risk factors, the evidence for ethnicity was ‘less clear’.

‘I have had discussions with scientists about this in terms of trying to tease this apart today – also looking very specifically at healthcare workers with leaders of the NHS and across the medical and nursing professions,’ he told a daily news conference. 

‘This is something we are very keen to get extremely clear. We have asked PHE to look at this in some detail and then what we really want is if we see any signal at all we want to then next know what we can do about it to minimise risk.’  

‘This is because of the location of our communities in terms of the workforce being on the frontline and because of the amount of people that are caught in the poverty trap and live in households that have higher occupancy,’ she added.

‘There is all sorts of multiple deprivations that people are subject to now and I think Covid is throwing a light on the cracks in society and I think we’re going to have to rethink how we exist as a society, how we care for one another, how we care for the most vulnerable people in our society.’

Ms Cooper is now calling for a ‘centre for ethnic health’ to research into the ‘disparities and variations’.

‘This moment in time cannot be passed without something happening because people are dying.

‘I’m saying this to the highest level of government. I’m saying this to the minister of health. I am saying this to the prime minister. I am saying this country needs a centre for ethnic health to begin to take seriously the health of our population and respond to it.

‘Not just to talk, not just to churn out data, but to begin to commission real research into the disparities and variations in our communities and begin to take preventative action to support the health of the BAME population. We can’t go past this point without that.’

Ms Cooper said that a campaign to name one of the new temporary hospitals in England after British-Jamaican nursing pioneer Mary Seacole had hit a ‘brick wall’.

Under current plans, all emergency Covid-19 hospitals in England are due to be named after Florence Nightingale.

Both Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale earned fame for their work nursing sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.

Yvonne Coghill, director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) implementation team at NHS England and deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, is among those calling for a hospital to take Mary Seacole’s name as a simple way to acknowledge the contribution of BAME staff working on the frontline during the pandemic.

‘They don’t want to recognise our contribution over a matter of centuries, and still our contribution is not being recognised, but people are literally giving their lives, but we are of less value and that needs to change’, Ms Cooper added.

MailOnline has contacted Public Health England and NHS England.

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