A disproportionately high ratio of minority ethnic doctors and nurses in the UK's coronavirus pandemic frontline death toll needs urgent investigation.
Of the 19 fatalities within the state-funded NHS, 10 were medics from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Retired NHS medics from within the Indian community may now be within an even higher risk category.
The direct correlation between a persistent shortage of PPE and the NHS death toll is likely to be a significant factor alongside the genetic and societal criteria that impact the ethnic minority.
The UK government has announced a review into the factors behind a disproportionately high representation of Indians and ethnic minorities in the coronavirus pandemic death toll, including doctors and nurses on the National Health Service (NHS) frontlines. However, the UK's Opposition Labour Party, which had been pressing for such a review alongside medical and epidemiological experts, has demanded more information on its exact parameters. The Department of Health confirmed that of the 19 fatalities within the state-funded NHS, 10 were medics from minority ethnic backgrounds. Given that Indian-origin doctors form the backbone of the NHS and with scores of retired medics answering the government's clarion call to return to join the COVID-19 fightback, representations for research into the factors behind this discrepancy have been gaining momentum. A recent report by the UK's Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) revealed the country's ethnic minority population is more likely to require intensive care admissions, nearly triple the 13 per cent proportion in the UK population as a whole.
The crucial aspect of any investigation into the varying factors behind this disparity would be access to detailed data and the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the main representative group for Indian doctors in the UK, says it has a qualified team of researchers at hand as soon as the official statistics are made available. “The reasons behind this trend will not be any one thing but a complex set of factors, be it Vitamin D deficiency, the lack of social distancing measures within a large Indian family household set up or a genetic predisposition. We will know only once we have the relevant data to analyse,” said BAPIO President Dr Ramesh Mehta. The group unveiled a new academic tie-up with one of the UK's leading research institutions, Imperial College London for a new Research Forum to analyse the higher death rates from COVID-19 among Indian-origin and ethnic minority healthcare professionals. Its study will help target measures to mitigate risks and obtain a better understanding of incidences, outcomes and risk factors behind a “significantly” higher rate of coronavirus related mortality among minority ethnic medics. BAPIO says its new Forum will run parallel with the government's review as it has also been invited by Sir Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, to be part of a panel to draw up an action plan to take the investigation forward. “The work could have far-reaching consequences for our communities, now and in the future,” said Dr J.S. Bamrah, BAPIO chairman.