The British Medical Association is demanding an explanation from the government after it was revealed that pages containing recommendations to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities were removed from last week’s Covid-19 disparity report.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s (PHE) report.
Nagpaul said that he found it inexplicable that the government did not release the full report at a time, not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities.
Last week, Kemi Badenoch, the minister for women and equalities, told the Commons that Public Health England was unable to make any recommendations in its report on BAME people in relation to Covid-19, as some of the data needed was not available.
However, Prof Raj Bhopal, a scientist from the University of Edinburgh, who had been asked to peer-review the unpublished recommendations file, told the BBC that parliament had “not been told the full truth”.
Bhopal described the recommendations document as an “open secret” and said it had “every hallmark of a [government] report ready to go to the press”.
He added: “If you consult the public, you must publish the results. Otherwise, you’ve wasted their time, you’ve wasted your own time, you’ve wasted taxpayers’ money, and you’ve lost trust.”
In the letter, Dr Nagpaul wrote: “A clear response is needed as to why these pages and important recommendations were omitted from publication, especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities.”
In April, BMA called for urgent government action to better protect BAME doctors and medical students and emphasised the need for robust risk assessments, sufficient provision of PPE, and comprehensive data to be collected about occupational factors that may put healthcare workers at risk.
The letter added: "BMA called for this review and contributed our views to it, and we were extremely disappointed that the points raised in our submission were not addressed in the report published on 2 June. It now appears that pages addressing these and the contributions from other stakeholders may have been removed from the final report.”
Earlier this month, PHE was criticised for simply restating the increased mortality highlighted by other research without explaining the reasons for the stark disparity, or making recommendations to tackle it. BMA described it as “a missed opportunity” to instigate urgent action.