Ethnic minority healthcare workers disproportionately impacted by pandemic deaths

Ethnic minority healthcare workers have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for 56% of those who have died with the disease.

The PA news agency has verified the deaths of 221 frontline UK healthcare workers with Covid-19 since the beginning of March last year.

Of those, 123 workers came from ethnic minority backgrounds, while 68 (31%) were white and 30 (13%) were of unknown ethnic origin.

The figures include people who were working in roles shortly before their deaths where they were likely to come into contact with patients. Staff at care homes were not included as not enough reliable data was available.

In England, which has the most reliable data for workforce ethnicity, staff from ethnic minority backgrounds make up 22% of the NHS workforce, yet account for 57% of the deaths PA has verified.

By comparison, 78% of the 1.3 million NHS staff employed in England are white, but they account for 28% of deaths.

The over-representation in these statistics indicates how disproportionately people from minority ethnic backgrounds have been affected.

During the worst 12 weeks of the first wave, 5.1% of deaths in hospitals where ethnicity was known were people from black backgrounds, 7.1% were Asian and 84.4% were white.

Comparatively, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates the population for England at 3.8% black, 8.4% Asian and 83.9% white, which indicates people from black minority backgrounds were dying at higher rates in hospital than would be proportional.

South Asian ethnic groups have continued to experience an “alarming” higher risk of dying with coronavirus throughout both waves of the pandemic, a study of 28.9 million people in private households in England has shown.

In February, researchers said all ethnic minority groups had a higher risk of dying with Covid-19 than white British people in the first wave.

In the second wave, people from black ethnic groups experienced a similar risk, which showed that ethnic inequalities in Covid-19 mortality could be addressed.

But the risk continued to remain high for both men and women from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.

Researchers also found that in the first wave, people of black African background had the highest age-standardised Covid-19 mortality rates, with the rate for black African men 4.49 times higher than the rate for men of white British ethnicity.

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