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Labour demands action on personal protective equipment as survey reveals BAME staff more likely to face shortages

A study has shown that BAME groups are two to three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the general population (PA)

2 min read

Black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff are more likely to have problems accessing protective equipment, a new survey branded “deeply concerning” by Labour has revealed.

The UK-wide members poll by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found that BAME respondents were twice as likely to experience shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) compared to their white British colleagues.

It comes after analysis of NHS data at University College London found that BAME groups were two to three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the general population. 

The British Medical Association has also revealed that, as of 11 May, 94% of clinicians who have died due to the virus were from a BAME background.

According to the RCN report, over half of BAME nurses felt pressured to work without PPE compared to just 29% of white British respondents.

Minority groups were also slightly more likely to be asked to reuse single-use equipment than their white counterparts, at 53% to 42%.

And white British frontline staff are considerably more likely to have received guidance on high-risk PPE, with one in three BAME respondents stating they hadn’t been given essential training. 

Overall, only 15% of BAME respondents had confidence in their employers compared with 30% among the white British group.

General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dame Donna Kinnair said: “It is simply unacceptable that we are in a situation where BAME nursing staff are less protected
than other nursing staff.

“All of our nursing staff must have the protection they need, and action must be taken urgently to ensure they are all kept safe.”

She added that she “looked forward” to the findings of Public Health England’s investigation into the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on BAME groups.

The report, which will also look at the effect of other factors such as gender and obesity, is set to be published this week. 

Labour branded the findings of the RCN report “deeply concerning”, adding that it “shed further light on the experiences of BAME workers on the frontline”.

The party’s race relations Advisor Baroness Doreen Lawrence said: “We know how crucial PPE is for key workers and any inequality in provision should be seriously addressed.

“The government must ensure risk assessments for BAME staff are taking place so that all high-risk employees are adequately protected.

“We cannot - and will not - continue to ignore the structural inequalities faced by BAME workers.”

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