The government has asked all health staff to share their ethnicity information amid concerns that covid-19 may have a disproportionate impact on people with a black, asian or minority ethnic background.
According to UK statistics, higher numbers of BAME people are becoming seriously ill or even dying with the virus.
Analysis by the Office of National Statistics shows that the death rate among those of a black ethnic background are nearly double (1.9 times higher) than those with a white background in English hospitals, while men and women of Pakistani background are 1.7 times more likely to die.
Meanwhile, the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre last month found that 35% of 2,000 UK-based patients were non-white - far higher than the 13% proportion they make up of the population.
Jersey has so far not released ethnicity data about covid-19 patients, but the Chief Minister has previously said it may be possible provided individuals cannot be identified.
Pictured: UK research showed disproportionate numbers of BAME people with covid-19 needing intensive care treatment.
Further research is needed to understand the harder impact on these groups, but it’s been suggested that it could be a mixture of sociological factors, such as a higher proportion of BAME people taking essential worker roles and higher levels of economic difficulty in these communities.
Some have pointed to different underlying health conditions, ranging from coronary heart disease to high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, being more prevalent in certain groups.
To help decide how to respond to this risk, Jersey’s Government told Express it is now collecting data about its health workers’ ethnic background - something they don’t do routinely.
A spokesperson said: “The Government hasn’t explicitly requested ethnicity details from its staff previously, although staff do have the option to provide this information if they wish.
“We do know though that only a small proportion of Government staff, both for Government as a whole and within Health and Community Services, are from a Black, Asian, Minority or Ethnic background.”
Pictured: The Government of Jersey has emailed health staff to request details about their ethnicity.
They continued: “Recent research suggests some evidence that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on people with a BAME background and, for example, the UK Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre shows a much higher frequency of patients with BAME backgrounds requiring critical care than that expected from the overall population.
“We’re adopting the approach of the NHS to identify our BAME staff and we’ve emailed all Health and Community Services staff asking them to complete ethnicity information, so we can act in an informed way and do all we can to minimise avoidable harm in vulnerable groups.”
Asked if any proactive measures had been taken to help such staff in advance of receiving the ethnicity data, the spokesperson said that "no additional guidance is being introduced at the moment", noting: “As with all Health and Community Services staff, BAME staff with underlying health conditions should already have been assessed and their situation managed appropriately."
They added that no BAME employees had contacted them with concerns.
In a blog post outlining the steps the NHS has taken so far to minimise risks to BAME NHS workers and those in the wider community, Doctors Nikki Kanani and Prerana Issar wrote: “The data is important, but this is not just an equality, diversity and inclusion issue - it is an urgent medical emergency and we need to act now.”
These measures include improving work risk assessments to include ethnicity as a factor, as well as working with ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ to ensure staff have a means to safely raise concerns.
Pictured: Express has asked about representation for minority communities within the island's covid-19 senior command.
Bespoke health and wellbeing resources, including rehabilitation and recovery from covid-19, are also being put together to support BAME communities, as the virus’s disproportionate impact takes an emotional toll.
At a higher level, national governance structures such as the UK’s Covid-19 Gold Command - one of the groups leading the strategic response - have been asked to ensure there is diversity representation.
Express has asked government officials what specific representation is available for Jersey’s minority communities within the island’s covid-19 response command structures and is awaiting a reply.
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.