Coronavirus: David Lammy's powerful response to BAME NHS workers being "potentially higher risk"

30 April 2020, 14:36

By Fiona Jones

BAME NHS workers are dying in droves and this issue was raised weeks ago by our ethnic minorities population, the Shadow Justice Secretary told LBC.

NHS workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds should be "risk-assessed" over concerns they are being "disproportionately affected by coronavirus," new guidance suggests.

NHS England has urged health trusts to make "appropriate arrangements", which could include moving those from ethnic minority backgrounds away from patient-facing roles.

Shelagh Forgarty asked Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy if people should be risk assessed based on their ethnicity during the pandemic, in that way that one would risk assess a pregnant staff member.

Mr Lammy said that it is clear BAME workers, especially in the frontline, are more affected by this disease, and if “we are in the business of saving lives we must do what we can to protect these individuals.”

Shelagh pointed out this is a real quandary for the NHS due to the sheer volume of BAME personnel who work for the health service.

“It looks as those it is that BAME people are at higher risk, but to remove them or minimise the work they do in the NHS would be incredibly difficult to do at this time, wouldn’t it”? Shelagh asked.

David Lammy said this was raised by the BAME community "weeks ago". Picture: PA

“I think Public Health England have got to be guided by the expertise and the evidence,” the shadow justice secretary said.

He questioned whether adequate supply of PPE would stop BAME people “dying in the droves that they already are.”

If the resolution of PPE shortages transpired not to be the issue at all, Mr Lammy said, it could be something to do with pathology, such as underlying diabetes.

“Not all ethnic minorities are suffering at this time and dying at this time. We’ve got to quickly get on top of the evidence.”

Mr Lammy said this issue was being raised “weeks ago” by our ethnic minorities population and “it’s taken some time to move forward with the review and get on top of the evidence.

He cited evidence emerging from the US which has found a link between African-Americans and clotting.

“Also around how symptoms are presenting slightly different in African-Americans,” he said, “we need to understand that so we can give the best advice.”

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said the government will "do what it takes to protect those in the NHS."