Censorship row over report on UK BAME Covid-19 deathsMegan Orito
Censorship row over report on UK BAME Covid-19 deaths.
Muslim group calls for release of ‘uncensored’ report after third-party submissions omitted
Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer
Concerns about censorship have been raised after third-party submissions were left out of the government-commissioned report on the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people
Public Health England said it had engaged with more than 1,000 people during its inquiry. But the report, which has been criticised for failing to investigate the reasons for the disparities or make recommendations on how to address them, did not mention the consultations.
Anger has been compounded by a report in the Health Service Journal claiming that before publication the government removed a section detailing responses from third parties, many of whom highlighted structural racism.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which called in its written submission for “specific measures … to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism [within the NHS]”, said it had contacted PHE to ask why its evidence was not included.
Its secretary-general, Harun Khan, said: “To choose to not discuss the overwhelming role structural racism and inequality has on mortality rates and to disregard the evidence compiled by community organisations, whilst simultaneously providing no recommendations or an action plan, despite this being the central purpose of the review, is entirely unacceptable. It beggars belief that a review asking why BAME communities are more at risk fails to give even a single answer.
“The MCB is seeking further clarification from PHE as to why the report removed the submission from the MCB and others. It is imperative that the full uncensored report is published with actionable policies and recommendations as suggested by community stakeholders, and a full Covid race equality strategy is introduced.”
The report, which was published on Tuesday, found that BAME groups were up to twice as likely as white Britons to die if they contract Covid-19. But numerous studies had already established disproportionate mortality among BAME people, leaving many furious as to why PHE did not examine the reasons for the disparities or propose solutions.
Dr Zubaida Haque, the interim director of the Runnymede Trust, who attended a Zoom consultation relating to the review, said: “It’s extraordinary, there’s nothing about that in the document at all. What was the point of carrying out that consultation exercise? It’s a partial review, in terms of the fact that it doesn’t have any written recommendations or plan of action, and it’s a partial review because it clearly hasn’t taken onboard any of the concerns of voluntary and grassroots organisations. In that sense, it’s very difficult to have confidence and trust in the review.”
In a webinar on 22 May, Prof Kevin Fenton, the PHE regional director for London, who led the review, said the public health body had “engaged more than 1,000 – almost coming up now to 1,500 individuals who have participated in briefings, lectures, discussions, listening sessions on this issue”. The “extensive exercise” included steps being taken already because “we shouldn’t be waiting to act when we know what to do”, he said.
The British Medical Association’s written evidence included the need to take account of socioeconomic factors. Its council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “It is further incredibly concerning, if true, to hear claims that parts of the review have not been published. We first pushed for this review two months’ ago and a number of concerns we have consistently raised are not reflected in the paper. While this review was being compiled, BAME workers were dying and will continue to do so unless the government engages in actions, not words.”
Neither PHE nor the Department for Health and Social Care responded to the Guardian’s question as to whether a section of the report had been removed before its publication.
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