ITV published short sharp research findings last week revealing the nature and extent of racism and racist discrimination in the NHS and posing some questions about how that relates to the deaths among front line workers. We asked the Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester, Professor Aneez Esmail, who is also a hands on GP and who heads up our campaign for the Registration of Medical Professionals in the UK for his immediate reaction to the research findings:
“The findings from the ITN survey concur with my own experience and understanding of why BAME staff in the NHS seem to be differentially impacted by the effects of Covid-19. As a practising GP I have numerous examples of colleagues who have approached me about their concerns regarding the lack of support by management and being forced to work in risky situations.
The NHS is a microcosm of society more generally and research is increasingly showing that BAME people are adversely affected by Covid-19 because they are over-represented in low paying jobs where they have less power and agency to manage their working conditions. Inevitably they are pushed into front lines roles more often than their white colleagues and are therefore more exposed to the risks of contracting the disease. There is no gene for being an ethnic minority and when an enquiry will be finally held I will not be surprised to find that proportionally more BAME died - whether they worked in the NHS or in roles in the social care sector - because of their working conditions and their lack of agency within these organisations."
On the social care side of this same equation, a RAPAR member composed this account about their friend who works in a dementia care home.
Mr B (he does not want to be named even though he is happy to share his experience)
works 12 hour shifts in a private dementia care home and he is feeling exhausted. He is experiencing racism from some of his white colleagues and managers: some of his colleagues are off sick or on leave and there are very few carers left to look after the 100 patients, some of whom are infected with Coronavirus. Some white staff refuse to serve those patients because they are scared they might get the virus and management send him to do the job: he has been with a few of them when they took their last breath. This affected him so much that he started writing about it, and he is thinking of leaving the job after Corona is over. His wife is in high risk groups, only recently recovering from cancer but Mr B's manager won't allow him to reduce his working hours . He said wearing masks for 12 hours makes him sick. He is a healthy man but I can see he is getting unwell mentally. The most shocking thing is, after working for almost 10 years in this job, he receives the minimum wage of £8.50 an hour and has never had a bonus or pay rise.
Obviously workers who are organised in the Trade Union movement have a critical reach out role here. Most recently the General Secretary of TSSA, Manuel Cortes signed our Open Letter in the wake of the death of frontline Transport Worker Belly Mujinga. Manuel explains: "The hallmark of a civilised society is how well it looks after its weak and vulnerable. No one who lives within our shores should be left destitute or without access to comprehensive healthcare. That's why I support this campaign."
And another of our signatories to the Open Letter calling for Status Now, MASI, sent this latest update from the Republic of Ireland:
‘It has been an uphill battle between ourselves as people living in direct provision and the Department of Justice. As of last Wednesday, we saw a sudden rise of people infected with Covid19 to 149. This is attributed to the fact that people cannot observe social distancing due to overcrowded living arrangements: direct provision residents share bedrooms, bathrooms and dining rooms.
We wrote to all leaders of all political parties in Ireland to raise this issue at Government level. It was encouraging then to see time allowed at the Dáil for the Deputies to pose questions directly to both Minister Charlie Flanagan and Minister David Stanton. This has never happened before in the Irish State; that the Parliament would discuss the issues about Direct Provision so passionately and, this time, residents felt well represented.
The following day we heard the two Leaders of the ruling parties admitting that they would like to focus on ending the direct provision system and creating a system whereby people have their own front doors and cook their own meals. The positive thing here is that they are acknowledging that this system is wrong and needs to end. What needs to clear is how it will end, in line with what people seeking asylum want:
1. Amend HAP criteria to include people seeking asylum so that people can move out of Direct Provision and live in the community.
2. Lift restrictions on the right to work for people seeking asylum and allow everyone in Direct Provision, and people seeking asylum not in Direct Provision, to work legally.
3. Extend access to Jobseekers Allowance to people seeking asylum, and extend child benefit to every child in the State, irrespective of immigration status. This is money that is currently paid to the operators of Direct Provision Centres who make millions annually.
4. Grant permission to remain to all non-EU/EEA nationals irrespective of current immigration status: there is no reason to import labour when there are thousands of undocumented people in the country who are very happy to contribute.
And, finally, North of the English border, the Scottish Government is offering an(other) example of how progressive they can be as, today, the make the call that ‘all migrants should be granted Leave to Remain (LTR)’. Yes indeed...
...If anyone can explain to RAPAR why, at their daily briefings, the British Government still do not have a signer who communicates information to deaf people using sign language to interpret, please email admin(at)rapar.org.uk. We are wondering if the reason is the same or perhaps similar to the one that accounts for why our Open Letter calling for Status Now #healthandsafetyforall has yet to be acknowledged, let alone acted upon. You though, can sign it here.