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Practices can consider remote working or ‘buddying’ to get BAME GPs off frontline

by Costanza Pearce
11 May 2020

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Staff from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds could work remotely during the Covid-19 crisis, while small practices may wish to get into ‘buddying’ arrangements with neighbouring practices if their GPs are at higher risk.

These were messages in a webinar on how to protect BAME GPs and general practice staff which took place yesterday evening, ahead of NHS England releasing a bespoke risk assessment tool for general practice.

And it comes as new data from the Office for National Statistics has shown that people from certain black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than their white counterparts.

NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani told GPs last night that practices should consider remote working for their staff who are at risk.

Some measures they can ‘start to consider’ include ‘looking at different working patterns, working remotely where that’s appropriate [and] using the back of office space in different ways’, she said.

She added that PPE has ‘an additional role to play in this space’ as ‘adapted PPE guidance’ is released.

Also speaking in the webinar, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added that PCNs should set up ‘buddying’ arrangements if doctors at small practices are at high risk.

He said: ‘If you are a small practice with just one or two partners, you may not have the same flexibility [as bigger practices]. That’s where I think within the PCN there need to be buddying arrangements so that some practices can be protected if the doctors there are at high risk.’

In some rural areas, practices with multiple sites have asked high-risk staff to work in sites where they are not exposed to ‘potentially infectious patients’, he added.

In the same online discussion, NHS England chief people officer Prerana Issar said that practices will have to have difficult conversations with their BAME staff in order to protect them, including over staff’s personal health information.

She said: ‘It is not an easy conversation to have. It is complex and it involves sharing your own health data with potentially your co-worker or your line manager – not an easy thing to do at all.’ 

The upcoming risk assessment tool will include whether staff have any co-morbidities such as hypertension, CVD, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and COPD, she added.

It comes as provisional analysis from the ONS, taking into account factors such as age and health conditions, found that the risk of death from coronavirus is ‘significantly higher’ for certain ethnic groups (see box).

Last week, NHS England said GP practices should risk assess their staff from BAME backgrounds in light of the emerging evidence that they are at higher risk from Covid-19.