June 3rd, 2020
The Prime Minister
10, Downing St
Dear Boris Johnson
The sudden release of the Public Health England report 'Disparities in the Risks and Outcomes of Covid 19 into the impact of COVID-19' on BAME communities - published without press alert after days of prevarication and delays has resulted in disappointment and questions about missing detail and a total lack of recommendations.
The news in the Health Service Journal that part of the report drafted by Professor Fenton has been heavily redacted and stripped of vital information and findings does not surprise the We Need Answers group.
Given also as the Prime Minister you have so far failed to respond to our detailed letter sent to you on May 9th from over 80 respected signatories ( with now near 400 additions) representative of the many communities upon which COVID-19 has had a terrible impact – a number of whom submitted information to the Fenton Inquiry which has since been left out, we must yet again call for a full public inquiry into the disproportionately severe impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities in the UK - and which notably is not mirrored in other countries with high Black & Asian populations.
The Public Health England (PHE) report finds that higher infection and mortality rates in BAME communities could be attributed to poor housing conditions, lower incomes, occupations with higher risk profiles, inadequate access to public services, and a greater risk of underlying health conditions. These findings are not new and will not be useful unless they lead to concrete actions for rectifying the underlying causes.
It shows that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death as people of white British ethnicity, while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, African, Caribbean and black ethnicity had between a 10% and 50% higher risk of death. This has already been reported in the ONS data released in May.
There is a complete absence of the details which might be expected e.g. a detailed breakdown of occupations, yet 90% of doctors including 11 of 12 GP's who are lost to COVID-19 are BAME. There is no detailed brreakdown by heritage and how Covid 19 has impacted particular communities such as Nigerian, Jamaican and Filippino communties.
We know that UK health & care deaths are in excess of other countries and our PPE kit lesser standard. It is also notable there is no reference to how many Excess Deaths are from BAME communities and where through lack of access to testing, death has been attributed to underlying conditions, where the deceased may in fact have been suffering from COVID-19.
The exposure that vital information being stripped from the report to which our letter signatories have taken the time & trouble to contribute, shows we can now see that no plan is in place that gives confidence that the government is going to protect lives of people disproportionately impacted by this terrible disease.
The response to the COVID-19 crisis and the lives lost are both most definitely discriminatory. In the context of global events, with the spotlight on structural and institutional racism, the publication of this report which carries no recommendations is just going to heighten distrust of the claim that all lives matter to the Government.
Your Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Matthew Hancock, has lost valuable time by commissioning a report on facts that were already in the public domain. Either Black and Minority Ethnic lives matter or they don’t, and Ministers have prevaricated in commissioning a report that doesn't set out how working lives are to be protected. This report confirms what we already knew – BAME workers have made a disproportionate sacrifice during this pandemic.
Notably there is a complete absence of any recommendations – which given the nature of the virus and the risk of a second wave shows a further lack of preparedness. Why would this be?
People are dying, and you and your Ministers have been too slow to protect lives. You say that this virus doesn’t discriminate, but your government's response to this virus and the lives it has taken most definitely experienced a discrimination that ended in their deaths.
We believe the government's response reflects a “colour blind approach” in tackling Covid-19 after this review found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to die from the virus.
Fundamentally, your government has completely failed to undertake a proper impact assessment into how Covid-19 has affected BAME groups or refer to any future dangers ahead and how they can be managed. This is also exactly the same appalling treatment as they have taken towards care homes. This matter is urgent and needs to be properly addressed.
Now more than ever, Prime Minister, we need a public inquiry with evidence from frontline staff, families and experts to give context to the data and to fully assess the impact of coronavirus Covid_19 on BAME communities.
The report highlights that BAME lives matter, and make a significant contribution to the UK society, and with the severe impact of this pandemic on these communities, you should no longer take the colour-blind approach.
We Need Answers Campaign
CC Dame Julia Galloway, CEO, Public Health England
Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE, Director of Health & Wellbeing