Covid-19: BAME Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 2:46 pm, 18th June 2020

My hon. Friend makes a powerful comment, and I will get to that point later in my remarks. We must not allow pressure on people to do their job to affect health outcomes for them and their family, and I thank her for that brilliant intervention.

With all that in mind, plus the fact that Pakistani deaths are 2.9 times as high as deaths among white British people, it sadly seems as though my diverse constituency is at a greater risk of being disproportionately affected by covid-19. It is therefore with some optimism and relief that I note the most recent statistics, which show that the Kirklees local authority area remains one of the lowest affected by covid per size of population, with 179.6 cases per 100,000 people. On Tuesday this week, no new deaths were recorded at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust over the previous 24 hours. These low figures clearly reflect the sacrifices of the people of Kirklees and of Batley and Spen, who listened to Government advice and followed the guidance to protect our NHS. I would like to thank the leadership of Kirklees Council and of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who have worked tirelessly to keep the public and stakeholders informed so that we can all work together to keep people safe.

One serious worry is that the results of the covid testing regime are being held centrally and not shared with the trust, which could make the most of the data in an increasingly fluid situation. That does seem extremely odd. Our NHS trust is the local expert and the institution that people look to to keep them safe, so if it could factor in testing—how many tests are done and in what geographical location—and build a response based on the breakdown and composition of positive results, we would all be better served.

The impact on my community goes further than falling ill. The economic impact also affects my BAME community more deeply than others as we are a large manufacturing region and manufacturing is particularly exposed in an economic downturn. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies data showed only this week, workers in shut-down sectors are more likely than average to be BAME women and part-time workers, with 15% from BAME backgrounds in comparison with the workforce average of 12%. Let us not forget that these are a group of workers already disadvantaged in the labour market, with the ONS showing pre-covid BAME unemployment at 6.3% in January to March 2020, compared with 3.9% of the whole population. Anxiety about money and job prospects will also have a profound impact on their mental health.

As we know, according to the report from Public Health England, racism can make people from BAME backgrounds less likely to ask for help or insist on PPE. Some 90% of the doctors who died during the pandemic were from BAME backgrounds. Doctors from these communities were three times more likely to say that they had felt pressured to work without protective equipment. We must do more to tackle institutionalised racism in the care sector and the NHS. For that to happen, we need to have better data reporting, to support those in low-paid jobs to speak up, to develop a risk assessment for BAME staff members exposed to large numbers of the general public, to deliver culturally sensitive messaging across the community and to intensify health messages around the conditions that can lead to vulnerability.

Before I finish, let me say that each and every one of the statistics has family and friends mourning their loss. I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful, thoughtful and very well liked Dr Nasir Khan, who worked on one of the medical wards at Dewsbury and District Hospital in my constituency. He fell ill with the virus last month and, as a resident of Bolton, was admitted to Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, where he sadly died. His son made a moving tribute to his father. He ended with the words:

“We strive to achieve the greatness that was my dad and fulfil the dreams he has left behind.”

Let us hope that Dr Khan’s sacrifice was not in vain, and that Government will now implement the changes needed to ensure that black, Asian and minority ethnic workers are not allowed to be collateral damage in this fight.