A group of experts has backed advice to redeploy staff from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds away from the frontline due to their increased risk from coronavirus.
Last month, NHS England asked practices to start ‘risk assessing’ their BAME staff on the basis of emerging evidence that they may be at higher risk from Covid-19.
It said practices should make ‘appropriate arrangements’ to protect their staff, such as ‘working remotely or in a lower-risk area’.
Now a working group, led by professor of primary care at the University of Leicester Professor Kamlesh Khunti, has recommended the redeployment of high-risk staff to ‘lower risk environments’.
Primary care staff could be redirected to roles that are not patient-facing or avoid ‘direct contact in hot hubs’, according to a risk reduction frameworkdeveloped by the group.
It said: ‘[Considerations] may include redeployment of those deemed at highest risk of adverse outcomes such as redeployment to lower risk environments.
‘In primary care, roles which are not directly patient-facing are emerging and could be used as redeployment opportunities, or measures such as avoiding direct contact in hot hubs might be appropriate precautions.’
‘Supportive’ conversations around deployment between staff and managers should ‘take into account staff concerns and preferences’, it added.
Other measures include reducing the risk in the workplace through ‘safe systems of work’, correct use of PPE and hygiene measures, as well as identifying staff that are at higher risk.
Factors to be considered include age, sex, underlying health conditions or co-morbidities, pregnancy, disabilities and ethnicity, according to the framework.
The working group, which also includes Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Professor Azeem Majeed, professors of primary care at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London respectively, suggested BAME populations may be more at risk due to the higher prevalence of certain co-morbidities.
It said: ‘An emerging finding from systematic reviews and data from the UK is indicating that particular comorbidities such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are more prevalent in people with severe Covid-19.
‘These comorbidities are also more prevalent in BAME populations and may explain the increased risk of morbidity and mortality in this group.’
It added that recent evidence suggests a BAME background and obesity ‘may be associated with increased vulnerability’, especially when combined with other risk factors.
However, ‘evidence for ethnicity as an independent risk factor remains uncertain’, it said.
Ten out of 11 GPs known to have died from coronavirus come from a BAME background.
NHS England and the BMA previously said that practices can consider remote working or ‘buddying’ within PCNs to ensure their BAME staff are protected.
Meanwhile, Public Health England is expected to publish the results of its rapid review into whether people of BAME backgrounds are more adversely affected by Covid-19 at the end of the month.