Wealden MP’s accuses NHS & PHE of “wilful blindness” in addressing racial inequalities

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In a debate in the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday 18th) Nus Ghani MP accused NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) of failing in their leadership. In her stinging attack, the former Government minister criticised PHE over the time it has taken them to review the disproportionate number of deaths from Black and Asian ethnic groups.

We also understand the long-standing institutional biases of NHS England and Public Health England, which have failed in their leadership, are unaccountable, and hide behind the catch-all, “We just don’t have the data.” It is shameful.

Her criticism comes as Public Health England’s (PHE) delayed report suggests racial inequalities were a factor in why black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) are disproportionately contracting and dying from Covid-19.

Nus Ghani referred to analysis by the Health Service Journal in May which highlighted that of those doctors who have died from Covid-19, over 90% were of a BAME background.

In the biggest survey of its kind, ITV News asked BAME healthcare community why they thought more of their BAME colleagues were dying than their white counterparts, and 50% felt that discriminatory behaviour played a role in the high death toll.

As we champion our frontline key workers, we also need to give them confidence that we have their backs. Like all public workers, they want to do their jobs, but many are concerned that if there is a second wave of covid they will be risking their lives or their families’.

The BAME community has already been severely hit. I am not sure that it could take a second wave.

For BAME health workers to die at such a rate frankly amounts to negligence on the part of NHS England and Public Health England, but perhaps it is not that surprising considering their leadership boasts 46 individuals; yet only four of them are from BAME backgrounds.

It comes after the Government was accused of holding back this second PHE report when a first report on the issue was published at the start of June.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair at the British Medical Association, said the release of the recommendations should be followed by “urgent and tangible action” with timescales established on when they will be implemented.

This pandemic has brought to sharp focus the longstanding inequalities affecting BAME communities in this country, with greater numbers of people from a BAME background living in deprived areas and overcrowded housing, and a higher proportion as key workers that exposed them to the virus and who were often not provided with necessary protections.

Dr Nagpaul added:

The time for reviews, reports and commissions is over.

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