Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nursing staff are more likely to lack access to personal protective equipment (PPE) compared with white British colleagues, a new survey suggests.

The UK-wide RCN member survey paints a stark picture of BAME nursing staff’s access to PPE.

Lack of eye and face protection, and adequate gowns, for BAME staff.

Of BAME survey respondents working in high-risk environments, such as intensive care or critical care units:

Only 43% had adequate equipment for eye and face protection, in contrast to two thirds (66%) of white British nursing staff.
37% did not have enough fluid-repellent gowns to use during their shift, compared with 19% of white British staff.
More than half (53%) had been asked to re-use single-use PPE compared with 42% of white British respondents.

The survey also discovered similar findings for nursing staff working in non-high-risk environments.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said it was unacceptable that BAME staff were less protected.

‘These results reinforce our call for BAME nursing staff to have specific risk assessments to reflect the risks they face as a result of COVID-19,’ she said.

‘All of our nursing staff must have the protection they need, and action must be taken urgently to ensure they are all kept safe.’

While the RCN did not speculate why BAME staff were receiving less PPE, it stated it was awaiting findings from Public Health England’s review into the impact of COVID-19 on people from BAME backgrounds.

The RCN survey had 4,418 responses from BAME (728) and white British (3,690) nursing staff between 7-11 May.

Responding to the RCN survey, NHS England and Improvement workforce race equality standard deputy director, Habib Naqvi, said hospitals have asked to take precautionary measures, including risk-assessing BAME staff, and advised concerned staff to raise these with their trusts.