Elderly man from a BAME background

Further examination needed into Covid-19 disparities

There have been calls for further investigation into understanding and tackling Covid-19 disparities experienced by individuals from an ethnic minority background, following publication of the Government’s first quarterly report on progress in this area.

Outlining the steps which have been taken, including targeted messaging, increased importance of risk assessments for frontline health workers from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background and close monitoring of service use, the report suggests positive forward progress being made to help protect and support ethnic minority communities around the UK from a heightened risk of Covid-19.

It also outlined the increased knowledge of the virus we have now compared with the beginning of the year, including around the role socioeconomic and geographical factors, such as occupational exposure, population density and household composition, can have in explaining some aspect of the higher infection and mortality rates for ethnic minority groups.

However, the report concedes that, according to the latest evidence, part of the excess risk for those from a BAME background to the virus remains unexplained.

Further analysis is planned over the coming months, with calls being made to ensure these investigations look at some of the underlying issues which lead to instances of inequality for those from BAME communities.

Dr Habib Naqvi MBE, Director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, hosted by NHS Confederation, said: “The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities continues, with emerging data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre showing that since September, 31% of critically ill Covid-19 patients have been from BAME backgrounds.

“Contrary to the conclusions in the published report, the evidence, including that published by the ONS earlier this year, is clear – it is critically important to pay attention to structural racism and its role in leading to the disparities we observe.

“We must focus our attention beyond the range of surface-level, socioeconomic and geographical factors – including occupational exposure, population density, household composition and pre-existing health conditions – and examine some of the deep-seated, root causes of inequality including issues of racism, discrimination, and social inequality.”

NHE March/April 2024

NHE March/April 2024

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- Steve Gulati, University of Birmingham 

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