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Risk assessments for staff a priority to prevent further deaths and COVID specific research needed

The NHS Confederation BME Leadership Network has published a briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on BME communities and health and care staff. The briefing follows the publication of an early analysis of the deaths of 119 NHS staff, which was reported by the HSJ.

In response, RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: 'NHS staff across the UK are saddened and increasingly concerned by the number of COVID-19 related deaths of colleagues, particularly those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. The RCP welcomes this briefing and supports the recommendations as a crucial first step in protecting health and care workers and the public.

'It is critical that we take action without delay, so we are particularly pleased that the NHS Confederation says it is working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to develop risk assessment and mitigation strategies. We know some trusts are already doing innovative work producing guidance for staff, taking into account risk factors and deploying their workforce accordingly.

'National guidance for employers in carrying out workplace risk assessments with their teams must be developed and issued as quickly as possible. There are a number of risk factors emerging, particularly being from a BAME background, being male, age and having pre-exiting health conditions. Risk assessments must be individual if we are to avoid further deaths of our colleagues.

'The RCP therefore also welcomes the UK government announcement that Public Health England will lead an inquiry to understand why such a high number of people from BAME backgrounds are dying from the virus. The sooner we have more detail on the inquiry and when it will launch, the better. Similarly, we welcome the announcement that the Welsh government will work with Public Health Wales to investigate the issue and hope that begins immediately.

'Because while risk assessments and guidance must be developed now, the sooner we understand what is going on the more accurate those assessments will be. Longer term research is also vital, and we are very keen to encourage responses to the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation joint call for research proposals to investigate the link between ethnicity and COVID-19.'