The new research study investigating the risks of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) healthcare workers has been launched, after evidence has emerged that higher proportions of associated deaths within these groups were recorded- more than twice that of the white population.
Jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the £2.1m University of Leicester-led UK-REACH study (UK Research study into Ethnicity And COVID-19 outcomes in Healthcare workers) will work with more than 30,000 clinical and non-clinical members of staff to assess their risk of COVID-19, based on the analysis of two million healthcare records.
SAIL Databank at Swansea University will provide UK-REACH with a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) where de-identified healthcare worker registers from across professional registration councils and the NHS will be linked to create a baseline healthcare worker population. In addition to the baseline register data, this will be linked to relevant routine health records from across the UK, including primary and secondary care data, and COVID testing and surveillance datasets.
Among its datasets, SAIL Databank is also the TRE for BREATHE – the Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health. BREATHE data is volunteered by the public via the ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study app that has now been downloaded by over 4 million people who use it to track their daily health and potential Coronavirus symptoms.
SAIL Databank’s wealth of data, and its ability to perform analysis and linkage across them, will help to conduct vital research and provide evidence to policymakers so that important decisions can be made.
Professor David Ford, Director of SAIL Databank and Chief Data Officer at BREATHE, said,
“We are pleased and excited to be supporting this very important study. Our role will be to work with the many organisations and agencies across the UK that have data relevant to understanding how BAME healthcare workers have been affected by the COVID virus, and to support the construction of a fully de-identified but linked dataset of over 2 million people. This resource, assembled for the very first time, held securely and under strong governance, will be capable of providing important new insights into how COVID-19 has affected BAME healthcare staff across the UK.”
The study will follow a group of healthcare workers from BAME backgrounds for a period of 12 months to see what changes occur in their physical and mental health, how they have changed their professional and social behaviours in response to COVID-19, and how risky their jobs are. The study will also include non-clinical staff integral to the day to day running of healthcare institutions, including cleaners, kitchen staff and porters.
Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said:
“COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on all of our lives, but sadly we have seen that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected by this terrible disease. There is an urgent need to better understand the complex reasons behind this. These new projects will enable researchers to work directly with ethnic minority groups to improve our evidence base and, crucially, save lives.”
Health Minister, Lord Bethell, said:
“I am deeply concerned by the disproportionate impact of this horrible virus on some minority communities. We need to find out what’s causing this, so we can stop these deaths. These research awards will give Britain’s scientists resources they need to answer the urgent questions behind these disparities so we can address the root causes and save lives.”
Chief Medical Officer for England and Head of the NIHR, Professor Chris Whitty, said:
“With evidence showing that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more severely affected by COVID-19, it is critical that we understand what factors are driving this risk to address them effectively.
“The diverse range of projects funded by the NIHR and UKRI will help examine this association in detail, so that new treatments and approaches to care can be developed to target the ethnicities most at risk. This research will have embedded patient and public involvement with Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups at all stages of the research.”
A stakeholder group of major national organisations including the General Medical Council, Royal College of Nursing, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, General Dental Council, NHS Employers and the BAME Professionals’ Association will help to conduct the research and provide evidence to policymakers so that decisions can be made in near real-time.
National ONS data shows that people from minority ethnic groups, particularly South Asian and Black and African Caribbean communities, are up to four times more likely to die from COVID-19, however the reason for this increased risk is not known.
Covid studies to examine virus link with ethnicity https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53565655#
Working on the ward: investigating the risks of COVID-19 for ethnic minority healthcare workers https://mrc.ukri.org/news/blog/working-on-the-ward-investigating-the-risks-of-covid-19-for-ethnic-minority-healthcare-workers/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery