Covid-19: BAME Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 4:06 pm, 18th June 2020

It is the pride of my life to represent the big, diverse constituency that I was born and brought up in, from those like my parents who came over in the ’40s to the newer communities from west Africa and Sri Lanka. Many of the children in those communities are doing well in our schools and will be the professionals of the future—as long as they manage to get through the circumstances in which they find themselves in overcrowded accommodation and houses in multiple occupation. As soon as we heard the advice about how to avoid getting coronavirus, we knew what would be the likely outcome. For those who do not have their own bathroom or kitchen but instead share them with four or five other families, the advice was impossible to follow.

It is not that I believe that people in positions of authority want to be overtly racist; I sincerely believe that they do not. However, even as we stand here, the health service in my area is ignoring the advice in the Public Health England evidence. There are plans to move the A&E, the maternity unit and all the acute services at St Helier Hospital further away into Sutton, in spite of the evidence that that takes them further away from BAME communities who are more likely to be dependent on them. The evidence is damning. Of the 66 lower output areas in the catchment with the highest proportion of BAME residents, just one is nearest to the proposed site in Belmont. Meanwhile, 64 of the 66 are nearest to St Helier, 32 of which are in the bottom two quintiles of deprivation, increasing their likely reliance on acute services.

The people running the programme know this; it just does not matter enough for them to want to do anything. Their own impact assessment states clearly:

“As higher densities of the BAME community and those with long term health conditions…live within areas in the highest quintile of deprivation, these groups may also be expected to be disproportionately impacted compared with others”.

But the programme carries on. Despite the overwhelming pressures facing the NHS, the programme’s consultation culminated at the peak of the pandemic. Yet the impact assessment states:

“A reduction in the number of hospitals providing…acute services could potentially have a negative impact on the resilience of services, if for example, there is an unplanned event…on the single major acute hospital site which may restrict service delivery. It is recognised that the likelihood of such a situation occurring is unlikely”.

It happened, we saw it, and it may come back again—and perhaps in an area with higher BAME density where the services will then be gone.

On 4 June, those at the programme confirmed that they will not have concluded their analysis of the impact of the pandemic on their proposals and that they have no intention of releasing the analysis they are undertaking. Their runaway train carries on full steam ahead, coronavirus or no coronavirus, no matter who dies or who does not; it is irrelevant, it is their plan and they are going to have it, come what may.

In conclusion, I want to ask the Minister about two cases in my constituency. The first is that of Mr Salih Hasan, a cleaner at St George’s Hospital for the past 18 years. He worked for two outsourced contractors ISS and Mitie, but he was a part of the team at St George’s. Will his family be the beneficiary of the lump-sum payment for those who die of coronavirus in the NHS? The second is that of Mr Antwi, who worked for a private transport company in hospital transport. He died, leaving his family to pay for a funeral they could not be afforded. Surely, his family too should receive some of that fund.