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NOV 17/2020

Protecting BME and at-risk workers

ByAnneA.pngMedacs Healthcare’s non-discriminatory risk assessment approach considered to be ‘best practice’ in COVID-19 protection for vulnerable NHS workers. 
Following research and concerns raised by agency workers, government and public health have reiterated that agencies must conduct robust risk assessments for vulnerable workers, particularly staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME).   
We’re proud that our approach to risk assessments has recently been commended by The Chief Nursing Officer’s BME Strategic Advisory Group, and we urge any of our NHS or supply chain partners who wish to replicate it for their own use to get in touch.

Our approach explained

Since the first news announcement in January, our dedicated COVID-19 task force has worked proactively to ensure we send the right advice and support to all our workers. This began with updates for those classed as having an increased risk in the first few weeks (based on age and/or existing medical conditions) and quickly progressed to include all groups now classed as vulnerable, including BME workers. 
Risk assessments were a priority focus for us, and we rapidly highlighted the need for a unified approach to our senior NHS and government policy advisor contacts. In the absence of a formal model, we developed our own non-discriminatory COVID-19 risk assessment tool, based on recommendations from NHS Wales and the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), and this model has since had excellent feedback. 
Most of our supply chain partners and clients have already followed our approach, adopting our bespoke stratification tool, which risk assesses without recording potentially discriminatory data on ethnicity, gender, age, weight or health conditions.  
To date we have conducted risk assessments on over 2,000 of our own workers, offering those at high risk alternative work options wherever possible. We’ve also taken steps to support the mental health of our workers – sending care packs to sick or isolating workers and providing a range of free resources, such as webinars on beating burnout (in partnership with the Joyful Doctor) and links to support via the Cavell Nurses Trust

BME healthcare worker risks

Recent statistics from the BMA suggest the risk of dying from COVID-19 is effectively doubled for BME healthcare workers. Disproportionate numbers of healthcare worker deaths reported by the NHS show the stark reality and scale of the issue: 
In line with equal opportunities legislation, healthcare staffing agencies don’t capture data on ethnicity, but we estimate that over 50% of our agency workers are from the BME community.   
As a nurse, I am proud to be leading efforts to safeguard and protect BME and other vulnerable workers as they bravely step up to support the NHS through the second wave and beyond. 
For more information about the Medacs Healthcare approach to COVID-19 risk assessments, please contact

Further info – upcoming agency nursing webinar

For agency nurses, the Chief Nursing Officer’s BME Strategic Advisory Group is presenting a special webinar on COVID-19, in partnership with RCN on 25 November from 3.30-5pm. The session, titled ‘Supporting Agency Nurses’ will include discussions on best practice policies for protecting agency nurses with direct feedback from nurses and providers on their experiences. If you are interested in joining this webinar please click here

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