Public Health England (PHE) has admitted the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed ‘humbling’ inequalities, as it finally published delayed recommendations on reducing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) deaths.

The first report from PHE’s rapid review, published 2 June, confirmed that BAME people have a higher Covid-19 death risk in the UK but faced criticism for being ‘a whitewash’ after it emerged that 69 pages of stakeholder recommendations were omitted.

The review recommendations, which have finally been published today, outline seven key actions to mitigate the risks caused by health inequalities, including the mandatory collection of ethnicity data on death certificates and the development of ‘culturally competent’ risk assessment tools.

The report said that the Government must ‘mandate comprehensive and quality ethnicity data collection and recording as part of routine NHS and social care data collection systems, including the mandatory collection of ethnicity data at death certification’.

Data must be ‘readily available’ to local health partners to ‘inform actions to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities’, it added.

PHE added that the Government must ‘accelerate the development of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools’, which are particularly important for key workers ‘in contact with’ those infected with coronavirus, such as pharmacy teams.

In a letter accompanying the report, PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said that it ‘confirms that the impact of Covid-19 has replicated existing health inequalities, and in some cases, increased them’.

He added that the insights ‘make for humbling reading’ and that ‘tangible actions’ must be delivered ‘at scale and pace’ to address the ‘underlying factors of inequality’.

Meanwhile, the report added that coronavirus recovery strategies must ‘actively reduce inequalities caused by the wider determinants of health to create long term sustainable change’.

It said: ‘Fully funded, sustained and meaningful approaches to tackling ethnic inequalities must be prioritised.’

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Chair, Professor Claire Anderson welcomed the publication of the report and demanded the government act on the findings ‘urgently’. 

‘The report rightly recognises the need to protect BAME staff working in health and care.

‘It also highlights the importance of increasing diverse leadership at all levels in the health and care system. We know that the pharmacy profession is no exception and we’ll be talking about this more in our Inclusion and Diversity Strategy due to be published next week.’

The publication of the report comes as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RBS) and UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) called on the government earlier this week to provide more support for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pharmacy team members. 

The bodies jointly wrote letters to English, Welsh and Scottish governments urging each government to take action on tackling health inequalities facing this group. The letters also called on ministers to ‘engage with the pharmacy profession to bring about real change to support and protect [the] workforce.’ 

The pharmacy sector has a high representation of BAME workers, currently comprising 47 per cent of the workforce, according to GPhC figures. 

At time of writing,  seven pharmacy team members have died after contracting Covid-19, six of these have come from BAME backgrounds. 

Earlier this month RPS Director for England, Ravi Sharma, called for a mandatory risk assessment for BAME all staff. He said: ‘The NHS and employers must make adjustments and re-shape their services if needed to enable people with a BAME background to continue to deliver high-quality patient care.’

In late May, the PDA wrote to ministers to raise concerns about the higher death rates from Covid-19 amongst BAME people and called for steps to be taken to mitigate risk to the group.

Head of Policy at the PDA Alima Batchelor, said ‘This is an example of an issue with a potentially profound impact on our BAME members and their families which legitimately calls for consideration of the factors which may be contributing to the stark difference in mortality rates. The network enhances our capacity to do that.’

Please take a few minutes to answer the Pharmacist’s racism and BAME health in pharmacy survey for your chance to win £100 worth of John Lewis gift vouchers. We’d like to hear your stories, experiences and thoughts.