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Trust Sets out Support for BAME Colleagues

Trust Sets out Support for BAME Colleagues

Date of release: 4 May 2020

We are aware that many of our colleagues may be anxious and concerned about the effects of COVID-19 and the emerging data that suggests that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the virus.

We have been in discussions with a number of stakeholders and are keen to update you on the steps that have been taken to support our staff, particularly those from BAME backgrounds at this time:

  • We recognise that staff must be provided with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to undertake their role and to that end, we continue to actively source and produce the much-needed PPE.

    Many staff will be aware that there have, at times, been national shortages of PPE, but with the support of local firms and our partner organisations we have managed to always have all necessary PPE available for our staff. In addition to this we have manufactured our own visors to the sum of over 5,000 per day. We have also made access to FIT testing available seven days per week, recognising the importance of this particularly where staff are required to undertake Aerosol Generating Procedures. This will ensure that all of our staff will have access to the correct PPE in line with Public Health England guidance.

  • In relation to PPE, we also recognise that there are some workers who work across departments, such as therapists, domestics, porters and estates and IT staff to name a few. Any such staff member who attends areas where it is appropriate to use PPE should do so from the PPE stock of that relevant department.

  • As the data suggests colleagues from BAME backgrounds are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 we have added ethnicity to our risk assessment to identify and best protect staff who are considered potentially more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. This will support line managers in having compassionate conversations with staff about their circumstances and any concerns that they may have such that staff can be sensitively deployed within the Trust. We would encourage our colleagues from BAME backgrounds to have conversations with their managers should they have any concerns.

  • Early in the outbreak, we set out our approach to staff absence related to COVID-19. In our bulletin on 11th March 2020 we set out that COVID-19 related absence will not be taken into account in relation to absence management process. This approach is designed to ensure that staff, including those from BAME backgrounds, who experience COVID-19 symptoms do not have to worry about the impact of absence on their employment. This in turn has ensured that staff have been able to properly self-isolate and protect their colleague and patients without being concerned about the impact of any sickness on their job or future prospects.

  • In a similar vein we took the decision early that staff who were absent as a result of COVID-19, whether they were ill themselves or self-isolating due to a member of their household being unwell, their pay would not be affected. This has enabled staff to stay at home and protect their colleagues and patients without being worried about the impact on their pay.

  • We have previously, over the weekend of 4th and 5th April, implemented staff testing for those who are symptomatic (and for staff members’ household contacts where they were symptomatic). To date we have tested over 600 staff or household contacts.

  • In practical terms we have been able to make a number of changes to enable social distancing to be observed by staff and the response of staff in working flexibly has been incredible. A key to the success has been the Central Redeployment Process which has allowed staff to be deployed sensitively and effectively to support the response to COVID-19.

  • Finally, there is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation and mortality. Recognising that BAME colleagues are more likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency, we would suggest that where colleagues consider they may be risk of such a deficiency, particularly those from a BAME background, they may wish consider taking a vitamin D supplement.

We are very keen to ensure that we do all we can to support staff wellbeing, and with that in mind, we have put in place a range of interventions and guides which can be accessed by visiting the Trust’s externally accessible website at www.rwt.nhs.uk/wellbeing. Sadly, we are also aware that a number of colleagues have been bereaved, in some cases as a result of COVID-19.

Whatever the circumstances, we recognise that this is a difficult time and that the support that may be available through places of worship may not be as accessible as it might otherwise have been. We would be keen to ensure that staff are aware that there continues to be support for people of all faiths and none, through the Chaplaincy, and reassure that we will do all we can to compassionately support any bereaved member of staff at this challenging time.

We are engaged in conversations with the chair of the BAME Employee Voice Group and other stakeholders as we work to further develop the support available to staff across the Trust.

If colleagues have any concerns with regard to their own situation, these can be discussed with their line manager, Neelam Mehay, the Trust’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, or addressed by email to a central team on rwh-tr.covid-19@nhs.netwhere the query will be sent to the appropriate senior manager.

The Occupational Health Service has also put in place as 7 day per week advice line that can be accessed on ext. 8057.

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham