The latest figures from NHS England showed that BAME people accounted for 16 per cent of all hospital deaths in England up to April 21, with those of Indian heritage the worst affected.

The guidance, written by Sir Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive and Amanda Pritchard, the NHS chief operating officer, says: “Emerging UK and international data suggests that people from BAME backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. 

“Public Health England have been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to investigate this. In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis, we commend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”

Some trusts are taking their own measures in light of the situation. Somerset NHS Foundation Trust has categorised its BAME workers as “vulnerable and at risk”, meaning managers will discuss with them whether they feel safe in their work and have made them a priority for testing and ensuring they are fit-tested with FFP3 masks “as soon as possible”.

The guidance also sets out detailed plans for the NHS to ramp up routine operations and urgent care for patients while continuing to use “remote” care whenever possible. 

The guidance says that while 90 per cent of GP appointments used to be carried out face to face, 85 per cent are now being carried out by phone or video. 

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