A drive to encourage ethnic minority healthcare workers to participate in a Government-backed study investigating the risks of COVID-19 to their health has been launched today.
The £2.1m University of Leicester-led UK-REACH study is the largest and most comprehensive research project assessing the risk of COVID-19 for 30,000 clinical and non-clinical staff. It was launched after growing evidence showed how people from minority ethnic backgrounds had double the risk of severe COVID infection compared to that of the white population.
Supported by the major national professional regulatory bodies, including the General Medical Council (GMC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), General Dental Council (GDC), General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and General Optical Council (GOC), the drive has been launched ahead of a national survey which will capture how the pandemic has impacted upon healthcare workers’ lives.
Dr Manish Pareek, Associate Clinical Professor in Infectious Diseases at the University of Leicester and Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is the chief investigator of the UK-REACH study. He said:
“We have significant evidence to show that COVID-19 poses a higher risk of severe illness and death for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. This is exacerbated for our clinical and non-clinical healthcare staff, who are front facing and have played an incredible part in keeping others safe and well.
“This is the first time that a study of such scale is being conducted into this issue – it is vital that ethnic minority healthcare workers are encouraged to participate so we can develop a deeper understanding of how the virus works and affects different groups.
“Ultimately, we want this research to improve the lives of healthcare staff and help save lives – it is vital that we can come together from all professions for one cause.”
The research is jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and was launched after growing evidence showed how people from ethnic minority backgrounds had double the risk of severe COVID infection compared to that of the white population.
The study will follow a group of healthcare workers from ethnic minority 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, some of whom are employed by Serco.
The research is supported by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University.
Academics at the University of Leicester have played an integral role in bringing the issue about the severe impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority populations to the fore, and have led a campaign to increase the number of ethnic minority people involved in COVID-19 research to address the disproportionate impact of the virus on ethnic minority communities.
In October, one of the most comprehensive studies of the impact of COVID-19 on 18 million ethnic minority patients from the UK and US patients was undertaken by Dr Manish Pareek and the results published in the journal E-Clinical Medicine for The Lancet revealed that black people are twice as likely as white people to catch the coronavirus, and Asian people are 1.5 times more likely than white people to be infected – and may be more likely to need intensive care.
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.
Healthcare workers will be contacted directly by their regulators over the coming days with details on how to join the study. In addition, they will also be able to register and take part by going to the UK-REACH website.
Recruitment for non-clinical healthcare workers will be supported by Serco.