• Friday, December 09, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

BAME doctors in UK say Covid risk assessment is yet to take place

It is believed Dr Halim contracted Covid at his place of work. (Photo: iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

DOCTORS from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds say key risk assessments have still not taken place, or have not been acted on.

Of 2,000 doctors who responded to the BBC News poll, 328 said their risks hadn’t been assessed at all, while 519 said they had had a risk assessment but no action had been taken.

Another 658 said some action had been taken, with just 383 reporting their risks had been considered in detail and action put into place to mitigate them, reported the BBC.

About 40 per cent of doctors in the UK are from BAME backgrounds, yet 95 per cent of the medics who have died from coronavirus were from minority backgrounds.

Dr Temi Olonisakin, a junior doctor in London who has Type 1 diabetes, scored high risk on her assessment and it was recommended that she limit patient contact.

But during the second wave of the pandemic, she was working in an acute medical unit and had problems getting her risk assessment implemented.

“I had to do a lot of chasing and occupational health weren’t as helpful as they could have been. It took a few weeks for me to be moved off patient-facing work. I felt I really had to fight for my safety,” Dr  Olonisakin told the BBC.

“It was very stressful. I was very aware of the dangers of working in hospital and possibly picking up virus and what that could mean for me.”

British Medical Association (BMA)chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it remained vital that risk assessments happened and were acted on, and weren’t a ‘tick-box exercise’.

“Career progression isn’t great for BAME doctors, so they tend to be in patient-facing roles more than white doctors, and more of them have been on the frontline during the pandemic,” Dr Nagpaul told the BBC.

“BAME doctors are more fearful of speaking up about issues in workplace because of the repercussions it might have on their careers. What’s required is a cultural transformation within the NHS, where there is equal experience, equal support and equal opportunity. This is a lesson that must be acted upon now.”

According to the report, several doctors reported difficulties in getting redeployed, and that it appeared easier for white doctors to avoid patient-facing work.

NHS England said it had written to all hospital trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups last June, asking them to undertake risk assessments for BAME staff within four weeks – and that most BAME doctors had been offered them.

A spokesman said there had been more than a million risk assessments of staff, with 95 per cent of those from BAME backgrounds having had one.

NHS bodies in Scotland and Wales said they had also implemented measures to address the concerns of BAME staff.

One GP, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC the PPE (personal protective equipment) she was offered wasn’t adequate.

Dr Leon Francis, a psychiatrist who set up the Black Medics Forum at the end of last year, told the BBC that the pandemic had been ‘another assault on the mental health of black doctors’.

NHS England recommends a number of tools to calculate an individual’s risk, one of which is the SAAD Scorecard that was created in memory of Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi, a GP from Bury who died from the virus last year.

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