Covid deaths: Health Secretary orders racial bias review

Wednesday 24th November 2021 02:05 EST

We’re all aware of the institutional racism that GPs and healthcare workers of colour underwent during the Covid-19 pandemic. But, in a commendable yet unnerving move, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has ordered a racial bias review for Covid deaths during the past many months of the global pandemic. 


According to The Lancet, analysis of data from Public Health England showed that deaths from coronavirus among people from ethnic-minority groups were two to four times greater than those among the white population in England.


This review will investigate and analyse medical equipment amid fears that thousands of ethnic-minority patients died of Covid-19 who should have survived.


The Sunday Times reported, “He has commissioned the review after research showed that oximeters, which monitor oxygen levels in the blood and are used to assess whether Covid-19 patients need lifesaving treatment, are less accurate on people with darker skin.” 


Writing for The Sunday Times, Javid wrote, “Like so many people I watched with horror last week the brave testimony of the cricketers who came forward to speak about their experiences of discrimination while playing the sport they loved.


“These stories struck a chord with me. The same word that was so ludicrously dismissed as the banter between teammates was used against me often when I grew up — and I can assure you, it’s not banter, it hurts. Although attitudes have thankfully changed a lot since then, there are still too many people in this country who find the odds unfairly stacked against them.


“When I walk to my office, there’s a board showing everyone who’s held this role for over a century, and being the first name on that list from an ethnic minority is a responsibility I take very seriously. I’m determined to take a fresh perspective to this position and do whatever it takes so that in this country, your health and your experience of health and care isn’t dictated by where you live or where you come from.


“Because although we’ve come together as a nation to fight this virus, the pandemic has shown that in many areas we’re far apart. At the height of the Covid peak last winter, black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups made up 28 per cent of critical-care admissions in England — about double their representation in the population as a whole.”


“For example, research has shown that oximeters, which monitor oxygen levels and are used to see whether treatment is needed for Covid-19, are less accurate on people with darker skin. One of the founding principles of our NHS is equality, and the possibility that a bias — even an inadvertent one — could lead to a poorer health outcome is totally unacceptable,” Javid added.


He said that he wants to fix this and that benefits of technology should be widely shared.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter