UK COVID-19 Update: 'BAME Report' Published, Statistics Criticised

Tim Locke

June 02, 2020

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

'BAME Report' Published

Public Health England's report into Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19  was published today, despite reports it may have been delayed due to "current global events".

People from BAME backgrounds are up to twice as likely to die with COVID-19 than those from a white British background, it found.

Overall, age and gender were bigger risk factors than ethnicity.

The analysis took account of sex, age, deprivation, and region, but not underlying health conditions and obesity. It does not make any recommendations.

Health and Social Care Secretary for England, Matt Hancock, told the Downing Street briefing: "This is a particularly timely publication because right across the world, people are angry about racial injustice."

He added: "There is much more work to do to understand what's driving these disparities, and how the different risk factors interact, and we are absolutely determined to get to the bottom of this and find ways of closing that gap."

He also said "it's been clear right from the start...I remember that the first four deaths of doctors were all people from black and Asian minority ethnic backgrounds."

He added: "It really struck me, and this was right at the start, that there was clearly a disparity, and we've seen that disparity."

Prof John Newton, England's national testing coordinator said: "It's not easy to go directly from the analysis to making recommendations, and we need to get the report widely disseminated, and widely discussed, before...deciding exactly what needs to be done."

However, he said: "The NHS has already started the process of risk assessment for staff using these sorts of data."

BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul called it "a statistical analysis, which while important, gets us no closer towards taking action that avoids harm to BAME communities".

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians commented: "I know these findings will cause particular concern among my colleagues in the NHS and social care who are at increased risk from COVID-19. It is vital that employers are listening to staff, understanding their concerns and undertaking risk assessments.

"There is no reason why all NHS employers should not have undertaken an initial risk assessment for those staff most at risk within the next 2 weeks."

Government Testing Statistics Criticised Again

Matt Hancock has been sent a further letter from the head of the UK Statistics Authority criticising Government testing figures.

Sir David Norgrove wrote: "The aim seems to be to show the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding. It is also hard to believe the statistics work to support the testing programme itself. The statistics and analysis serve neither purpose well."

Sir David's first letter on 11th May called for greater transparency in the data. Last week, Mr Hancock committed to "being as transparent as possible".

Today Sir David welcomed the promise of adding notes to clarify testing figures, but observed: "I am afraid though that the figures are still far from complete and comprehensible."

Areas of criticism included:

  • The distinction between tests carried out and posted out "is too often elided during the presentation at the daily press conference".

  • Although the data notes say some people may be tested more than once, "it is not clear from the published data how often that is the case". Numbers for people tested are now shown as "currently unavailable".

Sir David said that for the Test and Trace programme "it is important that a statement of the key metrics to measure its success should be developed systematically, and published, to avoid the situation that has arisen in relation to the testing programme. The statistics will need to be capable of being related to the wider testing data and readily understood by the public, through, for example, population adjusted maps of hotspots."

Mr Hancock told the Commons: "We will work with the UK Statistics Authority to make sure that they are happy with how we're publishing that data, to make sure that we get the data, published in a, in a reasonable and sensible way, in a way that also supports the operation of NHS Test and Trace, which we agree is an absolutely critical part of the next stage."

Discharges to Care Homes

NHS England published data on discharges from hospital to care homes showing that between the end of January and the middle of April the average number of patients discharged each day from hospitals to care homes fell by around 56% from 1177 to 512.

Commenting in a statement, Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "This data release provides some welcome clarity and transparency on the number of hospital discharges to care homes during the pandemic."

He continued: "This crisis has once again shown how important it is that the UK Government urgently brings forward its plans for sustainable social care provision. 

"For too long social care has been underfunded and undervalued, this cannot go on."

The Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said: "Throughout the pandemic trust leaders have consistently acted in accordance with the public health guidance, only discharging known or suspected COVID-19 patients to a care home if trusts had agreed with the care home that they had the capacity to treat and isolate this type of patient.

"The suggestion that they knowingly and systematically discharged COVID patients into care homes is demonstrably wrong." 

ONS and CQC Data

The Office for National Statistics published its weekly COVID-19 data for England and Wales. Among the findings for the week ending 22nd May 2020 (Week 21):

  • There were 12,288 deaths overall, that's 2285 lower than the previous week but 2348 higher than the 5-year average

  • 'Novel coronavirus' was mentioned for 2589 deaths, the lowest in the past 7 weeks, and accounting for 21.1% of all deaths

  • Care home deaths were 1289 higher than the 5-year average but hospital deaths were 24 fewer than the 5-year average

  • ONS said the total number of excess deaths involving COVID-19 continued to decrease

There were 56,308 excess deaths after the 5-year average between weeks 13 and 21.

The Care Quality Commission also published data for deaths of people with learning disabilities. Between 10th April and 15th May this year there were 386 deaths in this group compared with 165 in the same period last year, a rise of 134%.

Kate Terroni, CQC chief inspector of Adult Social Care, said in a statement: "While we know this data has its limitations what it does show is a significant increase in deaths of people with a learning disability as a result of COVID-19. We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives.

"These figures also show that the impact on this group of people is being felt at a younger age range than in the wider population – something that should be considered in decisions on testing of people of working age with a learning disability."

Daily Deaths and Data

Another 324 UK COVID-19 deaths were announced today, taking the total to 39,369.

There were 135,643 tests counted yesterday. This figure includes home tests that have been sent out but not yet processed.

The UK's testing capacity is now over 200,000 daily tests. However, overall daily tests carried out remain far lower than the available capacity. Figures for the number of people tested were last given on Friday 22nd May.

Another 1613 positive cases were reported today, and 7607 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus down from 8811 this time last week.

Another 436 people were admitted to hospital in England with COVID-19 and 9% of critical care beds are in use by coronavirus patients.

NHS Deaths

Among the recently announced NHS deaths was radiographer Nassar Hussain, 58, who had worked for more than 20 years in the NHS and was more recently employed at KIMS Hospital in Maidstone, Kent.

His daughter Farah paid tribute on a fundraising page in his memory: "He dedicated his life to helping others, whether it was being a great dad, a loving husband or a supportive manager, he just wanted to make other people happy." 

In Memoriam: Healthcare Workers Who Have Died of COVID-19.

More News in Brief

  • Matt Hancock announced the formal review of lockdown measures would move from 21 to 28 days. In a written Commons statement he said: "This will allow decisions to align more closely with the period of time necessary to assess the impact of previous changes on key data feeds, including the R rate." Another change is the ending of weekend Downing Street televised news briefings. Reports said Number 10 cited low viewing figures.

  • One workplace that appears to be going against Government advice to work at home if you can is the House of Commons. MPs voted to end the current remote voting system after joining long socially-distanced queues. In a statement, Rebecca Hilsenrat, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Parliament should not proceed without provision for remote participation, when many elected representatives cannot attend in person. This will place at a significant disadvantage MPs who are shielding or self-isolating because of age, disability, health conditions, or pregnancy."

  • Diabetes UK released survey results suggesting that 67% of people with the condition who are working don't feel safe. The results come from 2672 responses and also show 45% of workers don't feel confident in raising concerns about social distancing or safety at work. Diabetes UK Chief Executive Chris Askew said in a statement: "People with diabetes deserve to have their individual needs fully considered, with action taken to reduce any risk of coming into contact with the virus. A generic and catch-all assessment of workplace risks by employers does not go far enough – and this evidence shows is not working in practice for people with diabetes."

  • Rachel Millar, 24, a community midwife based at London's Homerton Hospital is pictured on one of a series of British Vogue front covers as the magazine celebrates 'the new front line'. "After the 8pm clapping fades, I hope the NHS won’t be forgotten," she told the magazine.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.


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