Over 75 per cent of BAME doctors worried about getting infected at work, says survey


A junior doctor, wearing gloves holds his stethoscope during a patient visit at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in north-west England on May 14, 2020. (Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/AFP via Getty Images)
A junior doctor, wearing gloves holds his stethoscope during a patient visit at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in north-west England on May 14, 2020. (Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/AFP via Getty Images)

OVER three-quarters of black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors remain concerned about getting infected with coronavirus at work, a new survey has found.

According to the study by Royal College of Physicians (RCP), at least 48 per cent of all doctors it surveyed were either “concerned or very concerned” about their vulnerability. The corresponding figure among BAME doctors shot up to 76 per cent.

Besides personal safety, two-thirds of all doctors expressed fear of unknowingly infecting people at home.

Doctors flagged “poor access to personal protective equipment, insufficient training on how to fit masks and lengthy waits for virus testing” as the primary issues they faced, reports noted.

“Things are nowhere near what we need,” said RCP president, Prof Andrew Goddard. “People assume everyone’s feeling okay on the frontline and that morale is good, but the survey shows people are worried about it all. The PPE remains a significant issue. Testing has got better, there are still concerns, particularly around delays in getting the results back.”

He highlighted that concern was “very high among BAME doctors”, adding that it wasn’t surprising “given the awful situation we’ve had with the deaths of healthcare workers and people in social care from BAME backgrounds”.

“The fact that we’re so reliant on the BAME workforce in the NHS and social care, and the fact that the workforce is so worried about their health, is something we need to wake up to,” he said.

The survey results came at a time when new NHS guidance urged hospitals to redeploy BAME based on safety assessment.

Notably the British Medical Association’s chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, had recently called for an inquiry into the disproportionate volume of BAME health workers contracting coronavirus.

The survey report said about a third of doctors were off work following the outbreak, “most with confirmed or suspected Covid-19”.

Though efforts were on to boost PPE supplies, 16.5 per cent of doctors covered in the survey said they recently faced unavailability of officially recommended equipment.

Only 18 per cent of the doctors had undergone personal risk assessment that NHS staff were supposed to receive.

Said Goddard: “One of the challenges we’ve got is that lots of groups are working on risk assessment tools. We’ve got to have a consistent approach across the NHS and social care sector so we’re not worried one group is getting a different assessment than others.”