Public Health England (PHE) has admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed “humbling” inequalities, as it published its delayed recommendations on reducing Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) deaths.1

The report, published in June, contained feedback from 4,000 people who highlighted that BAME NHS staff are “less likely to speak up” over concerns around personal protective equipment because of historical racism and poorer experiences at work.

Worse health outcomes

Concerns were also raised that people from BAME communities are more likely to work in occupations where there is a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, use public transport to travel, and have poorer socio-economic circumstances, leading to worse health outcomes.

The report also “pointed to racism and discrimination experienced by communities, and more specifically by BAME key workers, as a root cause affecting health, and exposure risk, and disease progression risk”.

It added: “For many BAME groups, lack of trust of NHS services and healthcare treatment resulted in their reluctance to seek care on a timely basis, and late presentation with disease.”

Recommendations in the report included:

  • Strengthening targeted programmes for chronic disease prevention.
  • Culturally competent and targeted health promotion to prevent chronic diseases and multiple long-term conditions.
  • Targeting the health check programme to improve identification and management of multiple long-term conditions in BAME groups.
  • Targeted messaging on smoking, obesity, and improving management of common conditions including hypertension and diabetes.

PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said the report “confirms that the impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities, and in some cases, increased them”. He added that “tangible actions” must be delivered “at scale and pace” to address the “underlying factors of inequality”.

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1Public Health England. Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups (pdf). 2020.