BAME communities and marginalised groups were worst hit by Covid, report reveals
- Credit: Archant
A health care report has revealed how Covid affected the region, showing BAME people, those living in poverty and marginalised groups were among the worst hit.
The Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System found the pandemic escalated equalities which already existed and some patients suffered more than others – often finding it more difficult to access health care.
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of the CCGs, said his “biggest regret” was their support to BAME communities after not conducting an Equality Impact Assessment early on in the pandemic when they had the chance.
He added: “This report brings together the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and will enable us to be stronger going into the second wave this winter.”
The 154-page document revealed ways in which certain groups had been affected by the virus and subsequent lockdown, such as direct health risks, financial impacts and mental health challenges.
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These groups included homeless people, those with physical and learning disabilities, victims of domestic abuse, carers, overweight people, older men, children and young people.
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Phanuel Mutumburi, business and operations director of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, said the report reflected many of his own concerns.
He said: “There are a lot of people from BME communities working in factories, farms and care homes where they were not able to distance or protect themselves as well and can have multiple families living in the same home.
“The CCGs need to build better relationships with BME communities to overcome language barriers and ensure fears and concerns are heard.”
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, proposed the Equality Impact Assessment at the outset of the pandemic, but praised the response from the CCG.
He said: “The fact that the report reflects on that initial decision so honestly, shows that this system and its leaders remain as transparent as they possibly can. There is a recognition that these leaders should have set a course along these lines.
“That said, Dr Garratt, through his team and partners such as Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, provided a platform for a community-led series of events that are now influencing very real change, now in the recovery process, but more importantly, for the future and beyond the pandemic itself.”
Dr Dan Poulter, MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk, said it is important to remember the urgency of frontline care early on in the pandemic which made it harder to understand the full effects initially.
“I think it is very positive the CCG has recognised where people have been hit harder than others, but they should not be too hard on themselves that this didn’t come sooner,” he said.
“Now, the CCG can be clear on how to protect and communicate with those vulnerable groups and going ahead in the winter we need to be able to look back in six months time and see we were able to implement those lessons.”
What was the good news?
As well as highlighting lessons to be learned from the Covid response, the report shared encouraging discoveries from lockdown.
The CCG said it underestimated the “inherent resilience” in local communities after a huge number of people stepped up to volunteer.
Many of them were new to community activity and there was a significant growth of new grass roots organisations helping their communities.
Another positive lesson has been how adaptable people have been despite enormous upheavals in the way treatment and care has been administered.
Much work was shifted from hospitals to social care services and there was more collaboration with other emergency services.
New technology has been given a chance and proved incredibly successful, allowing clinicians to work from home and leave more space for health care staff to work safely in hospitals and other sites.