'A scandal': UK doctors chief slams failure to document ethnicity of Covid-19 patients

'A scandal': UK doctors chief slams failure to document ethnicity of Covid-19 patients
The chief of the BMA has criticised the government for neglecting to record the ethnicity of Covid-19 victims, after statistics showed non-white patients and health workers have been disproportionately affected.
3 min read
19 April, 2020
All 14 NHS doctors who have died from Covid-19 were from ethnic minorities [Getty]
The UK government's laxity in recording real-time data on the ethnicity of Covid-19 patients is a "scandal" and may have put lives in danger, the chairman of the British Medical Council said on Sunday.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the Observer that such information must begin to be documented immediately, after a study showed that over a third of seriously ill coronavirus patients were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, despite representing just 13 per cent of the UK population.

"This is not an issue that should require further campaigning. It would be a scandal if it requires further lobbying as data recording needs to start now, not tomorrow. When you have stark statistics like this, it is an instruction for government to act," Nagpaul said.

Read also: Comment: Coronavirus is killing NHS workers. Their deaths were preventable

Nagpaul also highlighted the marked disparity in BAME health workers suffering from Covid-19, and called for more data collection.

BAME workers account for 68 percent of the 57 NHS staff reported to have died from Covid-19, despite constituting 44 percent of the organisations employees.

All 14 doctors known to have died from the virus so far have been non-white.

Staff from ethnic minorities may feel less able to complain about having inadequate protection on the frontline, Nagpaul pointed out.

"We’re well aware that doctors have been under pressure to see patients but have not felt adequately protected, with shortages of PPE," he said.

"The BMA's evidence and that from the General Medical Council has shown before that BAME doctors are twice as likely not to complain about safety in the workplace as they have far greater fear of facing recriminations or reprisals … bullying and harassment has [also] been recorded at far higher levels."

The government on Thursday announced it was launching a review into the disproportionate amount of Covid-19 deaths among minority ethnic patients.

However UK hospitals are not currently required to record the ethnicity of patients receiving treatment or who die.

The number of people in Britain who have died in hospital from the coronavirus has risen by 596 to 16,060, according to daily health ministry figures on Sunday.

An independent study of the first 5,578 Covid-19 patients led by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre showed that ethnic minorities were disproportionately impacted.

The UK Prime Minister has been criticised for a perceived sluggish response at the start of the crisis, while the government is under fire over shortages of PPE.

Doctors have warned that gowns could run out within days.

Nagpaul told Sky on Sunday that 50 percent of doctors are saying they feel they don't have adequate protection.

"The government hasn't been as agile as it should have been," he added.

"This is extremely emotionally taxing and it's showing its toll on the healthcare workforce."

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