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GP practices should risk assess BAME staff before they face patients, NHS England says

by Costanza Pearce
10 June 2020

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GP practices should risk assess black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in order ‘to consider if they should see patients face to face’, NHS England has said.

This is the message in an amendment made to the latest standard operating procedures, which had first been published two weeks ago.

NHS England had initially said that practice staff should also be risk-assessed against coronavirus and remote working ‘prioritised’ for those ‘at increased risk’. 

But the revised document, updated this week, said: ‘All other staff including BAME staff and people identified as clinically vulnerable who are asked to apply stringent social distancing should be risk assessed to consider if they should see patients face to face.’

It added that practice staff ‘may be referred to an occupational health professional for further advice and support’.

Signposts to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s risk reduction framework and NHS Employers guidance on staff risk assessments remain unchanged in the document. 

In the latest GP coronavirus email bulletin, NHS England said it had revised the section ‘following feedback from GP practice colleagues and representatives’.

It comes as Public Health’s England’s (PHE) rapid review into coronavirus risk-factors found that people of Bangladeshi origin are most at risk of dying from Covid-19 but faced criticism for being ‘a whitewash’.

In April, practices were asked to risk-assess staff from BAME backgrounds due to ‘emerging evidence’ of their higher risk from Covid-19.

And in May, a group of primary care experts backed advice to redeploy BAME staff away from the frontline in a paper published by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.

However, NHS England stopped short of endorsing a specific scoring tool when it released updated guidance on how employers can assess the risk to BAME workers from Covid-19 last month.