More support needed for Black, Asian and minority ethnic psychiatrists during the pandemic, according to RCPsych survey

Online news
11 June 2020

Almost 15% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic psychiatrists feel their organisation is not addressing and accommodating the needs of ethnic minority staff, according to new survey results. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that more needs to be done to support these psychiatrists during the pandemic. 

The survey, which had 938 responses from across the UK, also showed that Black, Asian and minority ethnic psychiatrists are less confident in their organisation’s COVID-19 risk assessment processes than psychiatrists not from those backgrounds. Overall, only half (50.5%) of all psychiatrists in the UK are confident in their organisation’s COVID-19 risk assessment processes. 

It’s worth noting that across the UK, 1 in 5 (20%) of Black, Asian and minority ethnic psychiatrists say they are comfortable with redeployment to a general acute hospital, even though they are more at risk from COVID-19 complications. 

The survey results follow on from the publication of College guidance on risk mitigation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in mental healthcare settings, produced in response to the disproportionate numbers of these healthcare worker deaths due to COVID-19. 

The College has called for urgent implementation of this guidance across mental health settings in the UK, however these survey findings suggest that this has not yet happened everywhere. 

Dr Ananta Dave, who led the College taskforce that developed the guidance, said: “All healthcare organisations have a duty of care towards their staff and protecting those who are most at risk will benefit all staff, patients and services. 

 “The disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 deaths in Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff appear to be only partially explained by age, gender, health conditions and other demographic factors. We urgently need to investigate the relationships between racial inequalities and COVID-19.” 

The guidance identifies key areas for risk mitigation, including PPE, testing, remote working, redeployment and changes to staff rotas. It also highlights other significant organisational responses, such as inclusive leadership, PPE and IPC Champions, support for line managers and Board-level accountability. 

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “39% of our members are Black, Asian and minority ethnic psychiatrists. We very quickly recognised that responding to the disproportionate numbers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff deaths had to be a top priority within the College’s overall response to COVID-19.  

“Our survey shows that there is still more that can and should be done across the NHS to support our Black, Asian and minority ethnic  members working on the frontline of this crisis.” 

The survey follows on from previous surveys which received 1,685 responses in April and 1,369 responses in May. 

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