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Help gauge impact of COVID-19 on ethnic inequalities in health and social care

King’s College London researchers have launched a study to help improve working conditions and inequalities experienced by people from racial and ethnic minority groups working in health and social care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

tides nhs check bame study

The study findings will be used to develop education and training materials as part of a Race Equality Impact Assessment toolkit. These will support NHS and social care staff from racial and ethnic minority groups nationally through collaboration with key stakeholders and groups including medical educators, equality and diversity professionals.

In addition, the team will go onto develop approaches such as virtual reality training to help people understand and empathise with the experience of discrimination and racism in health and social services. The materials will be piloted and refined before being scaled up through collaborators, such as NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard, NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Nursing. 

COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic has shone a light on existing inequalities in society, exposing the greater vulnerability of some groups to contracting the virus and having poorer illness outcomes, including death.  

COVID-19 disproportionately affects individuals from racial and ethnic minority communities1,2, who are estimated to represent approximately 14 percent of the population in England and Wales. In the NHS, one the largest employers in the UK, the data suggest that staff from racial and ethnic minority groups represent at least 20 percent of the workforce and almost 50% in the London area.

However, what is less well known and less discussed, is that race leads to greater levels of workplace harassment and discrimination towards people from racial and ethnic minority groups compared to other staff groups3, and this can have long-lasting effects on their health and wellbeing and their ability to do their jobs4.  These experiences have been on the increase over the past five years, particularly in London NHS Trusts3.

Impact on Black, Asian and ethnic minority frontline workers

The reported sources of racism and discrimination can vary and can come from patients and families, but also from colleagues and managers. NHS staff from racial and ethnic minority groups have poorer working conditions including lower pay and less control in decision making, with many feeling powerless to lodge complaints about working conditions3,5.

Adverse working conditions faced by NHS and social care staff from racial and ethnic minority groups, racism and greater exposure to COVID-19 related adversities within and outside the workplace may all be coming together to create a ‘perfect storm’.– Professor Stephani Hatch, project lead, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London

She continued, ‘These adversities place racial and ethnic minority staff in vulnerable positions as they work in roles that involve greater exposure to COVID-19 wards; and have greater workplace stresses, stigma, fear and uncertainty around COVID-19 risks for themselves and their families. We need staff from racial and ethnic minority groups to speak out about how inequalities are being produced in the context of COVID-19 and, if they continue, following the pandemic. Importantly, we want to work with these staff to amplify their voices and try to mitigate current and future impacts by developing effective and evidence-based approaches that are based on an in-depth understanding of real life experiences.’

Action through research

The team, in collaboration with Black Thrive, Maudsley Learning and Challenge Consultancy and in partnership with NHS CHECK , will develop an in-depth understanding of inequalities in health and social care settings in the context of COVID-19 and its direct impact on staff from racial and ethnic minority groups.

It will build on work already underway as part of the Tackling Inequalities and Discrimination Experiences (TIDES) study funded by the Wellcome Trust and will conduct research in partnership with NHS CHECK, a nationwide longitudinal study of NHS staff during the pandemic.

This grant is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

More information on TIDES can be found on the project website There are a number of ways to get involved in phase two of the TIDES study and have your say.

If you work in the NHS and are interested in taking part in the NHS CHECK study please visit the NHS CHECK website.

If you would like to discuss any of the research opportunities, please feel free to contact the team by email.

References

  1. Pareek M, Bangash MN, Pareek N, Pan D, Sze S, Minhas JS, et al. Ethnicity and COVID-19: an urgent public health research priority. The Lancet. 2020 May 2;395(10234):1421–2.
  2. Harrison EM, Docherty AB, Barr B, Buchan I, Carson G, Drake TM, et al. Ethnicity and Outcomes from COVID-19: The ISARIC CCP-UK Prospective Observational Cohort Study of Hospitalised Patients. SSRN Electron J [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 19]; Available from: https://www.ssrn.com/abstract=3618215
  3. NHS Equality and Diversity Council. NHS workforce race equality standard. 2019 data analysis report for NHS trusts. 2019;
  4. Rhead R, Chui Z, Bakolis I, Gazard B, Harwood H, MacCrimmon S, et al. The impact of workplace discrimination and harassment among NHS staff working in London trusts: Results from the TIDES study. Under Review at BJPsych Open.
  5. NHS. 2018 staff survey [Internet]. NHS Staff Survey Results – 2018. Available from: https://www.nhsstaffsurveyresults.com/

Contact: For interviews or any further media information please contact Franca Davenport, Interim Senior Press Officer, IoPPN: franca.davenport@kcl.ac.uk / +44 7718 697176

In this story

Stephani Hatch

Stephani Hatch

Professor of Sociology and Epidemiology