Safe working for all NHS staff through COVID-19

With emerging evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities, on 15 April 2020 NHS England CEO Simon Stevens convened a meeting of leaders in healthcare and representative bodies such as the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing to agree a plan of action to support staff.

The NHS response has since been underpinned by three principles of protecting, supporting, and engaging our staff.

Risk assessments

Following the mid-April summit and acting on a precautionary principle, all employers are recommended to risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly. With our support, on 30 April NHS Employers published risk assessment guidance signposted to NHS leaders, and since updated on 28 May.

We have produced a summary of the actions the NHS have taken to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on NHS staff.

Case studies

Primary care

Secondary care

Infection prevention control

  • Barts Health NHS Trust – how one of London’s largest hospital trusts adopted a new standard operating procedure (SOP) protecting Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues who wear religious head coverings, and colleagues who have beards for religious and cultural reasons.
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) – How a large acute hospital trust managed IPC issues when staff were wearing a hijab or headscarf and alternative solutions.

Education programmes for staff

Case studies which could help employers support their staff can be sent to

Protecting all staff

NHS employers are recommended to assure themselves that all their staff – including porters, ancillary staff, and agency and contract workers – are following national infection prevention control guidance to:

  • use the right level of personal protective equipment, in line with this guidance from Public Health England
  • keep themselves, colleagues and patients safe with regular reminders and advice on core information that all staff need to know:
    • good hand hygiene:
    • PHE’s guidance on social distancing (2 metres) inside and outside clinical areas: eg during work breaks and when in communal areas
    • keeping hands away from face when wearing any face protection
    • declaring all COVID-like symptoms, however mild, and not attending clinical areas for work
    • wherever possible, reducing movement between different areas
    • understanding the risk of surface contact transmission and frequently cleaning any shared equipment: eg mobile phones, desk phones and other communication devices, tablets, desktops, keyboards etc.

All those working in health and care settings can find essential information to use daily through the e-learning for healthcare.

Freedom to speak up

Regional support

NHS England and NHS Improvement’s regional teams are providing complementary support to the national guidance. For example, in the South East, a new regional advisory group has been established to offer consistent and best practice health and wellbeing support to colleagues about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our BAME workforce and communities in the South East. By ensuring robust risk assessments of all BAME colleagues across the South East are undertaken and acted on, the group is determined that its commitment and action will form part of a positive legacy from COVID-19.