In Depth

Coronavirus: almost 75% of NHS and carer deaths are BAME

Academic raises red flag over lack of data on Covid-19 deaths among people from BAME backgrounds

Almost three quarters of all NHS and social care staff who have died with coronavirus are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

According to Sky News analysis, 72% of all health and social care staff who have died with Covid-19 are BAME. Official figures show that BAME people make up 44% of NHS medical staff, the broadcaster adds.

The news comes as an academic clinician raised concerns over the lack of data on the number of Covid-19 deaths of people from BAME backgrounds.

Manish Pareek, associate Clinical Professor in Infectious Diseases at the University of Leicester, said in the Lancet only 7% of all worldwide reports into Covid-19 deaths recorded ethnicity. He added that better data collection is needed to understand if BAME communities were at increased risk.

How many BAME medical staff have died?

The Health Service Journal reports that 119 NHS staff have so far died from Covid-19. 

According to HSJ’s analysis, BAME people make up 71% of nurse and midwife deaths, 56% of healthcare support worker deaths, 94% of deaths among doctors and dentists and 29% of “other staff” deaths.

HSJ reports that BAME people make up 20% of the overall nursing and midwifery workforce, 17% of the healthcare support staff and 44% of the NHS’s doctor and dentist personnel. 

Habib Naqvi, the NHS director for workforce race and equality, told Sky News: “The fact that a high number of black and minority ethnic staff are dying from this pandemic is a worry for us.

“It's a challenge for us but we need to rise to that challenge and what we need to do is look at what we can put in place right now to support our staff.”

The broadcaster adds that 17 non-executive NHS directors from BAME backgrounds have also written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to offer their services as an independent advisory group.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the government to begin immediately collecting and publishing data on the ethnicity of coronavirus victims.

Writing in The Guardian, he said: “If the information was collected and published in real time, it would help bring the true scale of the problem to light and provide more evidence about how to protect communities from the virus.”

Is this being seen elsewhere?

A correlation between ethnic background and the likelihood of becoming critically ill with the new coronavirus is also being seen in the US.

In Chicago, black people account for half of all coronavirus cases in the city and more than 70% of deaths, despite making up just 30% of the population, according to the BBC

The broadcaster reported earlier this month that other cities with large black populations, including Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and New York, have also become coronavirus hotspots.

As of 5 April, 1,824 out of Chicago’s 4,680 confirmed Covid-19 cases were black residents. That compared with 847 white, 478 Hispanic and 126 Asian Chicagoans. Out of 98 patients who had died in the city, 72% were black. Across Illinois, black people accounted for 41% of Covid-19 deaths, despite making up 14% of the population of the state.

Allison Arwady, the Chicago public health commissioner, has highlighted that black residents already lived on average about 8.8 years less than their white counterparts. Mayor Lori Lightfoot added that the coronavirus was “devastating black Chicago”.

Lightfoot added that diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness were “really prevalent” in black communities, making patients more susceptible to becoming critically ill with coronavirus.

Arwady also told reporters that shortages of doctors for the black community and “significant health disparities because of food deserts and lack of walkable streets”, also contribute to the higher rate of black deaths, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

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What about the wider US?

In Michigan, the BBC reported earlier this month, African Americans make up 14% of the population, but they account for 33% of the coronavirus cases and 41% of deaths.

According to a study by ProPublica, African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases as of 3 April and 81% of its 27 deaths. This is despite black people accounting for 26% of the population.

Around 40% of Louisiana’s coronavirus deaths had also occurred in the New Orleans area, where the majority of residents are black.

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