Skip to main content

Dr Edward Dove part of new £2.1 million UK study on COVID-19 risks for BAME healthcare staff

Tue 28 July 2020

UK-REACH: Understanding COVID-19 outcomes for ethnic minority healthcare workers

A new £2.1m research study investigating the risks of COVID-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) healthcare workers has been launched, after evidence has emerged that higher proportions of associated deaths within these groups were recorded – more than twice that of the white population.

Jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the University of Leicester-led UK-REACH study (UK Research study into Ethnicity And COVID-19 outcomes in Healthcare workers) will work with more than 30,000 clinical and non-clinical members of staff to assess their risk of COVID-19, based on the analysis of two million healthcare records.

“It is now abundantly clear that COVID-19 disproportionately affects people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds,” said Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive. “Urgent action must be taken to determine and address the factors underlying this disparity. There is unlikely to be a simple answer and we must consider all possibilities, reflected in the range of projects we have funded, so that we can save as many lives as possible during this pandemic and any future outbreaks.”

Led by 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, the UK-REACH study will follow a group of healthcare workers from BAME 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.

“Globally, we have evidence that people from BAME backgrounds have a higher chance of going to intensive care and dying from COVID-19 – this may also be the case for healthcare staff,” said Dr Pareek.  “This is the first UK study to be conducted on a large scale investigating why BAME healthcare workers could be at greater risk of COVID-19.

“A recent PHE report highlighted how 63 per cent of healthcare workers who died from COVID-19 were from a BAME background. We want this research to improve the lives of healthcare staff – to this end, we have a stakeholder group of major national organisations to research and publicise our findings.”

The stakeholder group will help to conduct the research and provide evidence to policymakers so that decisions can be made in near real time. As part of this, Dr Edward Dove, Lecturer in Health Law and Regulation at Edinburgh Law School, will lead the research strand seeking to understand and address legal, ethical and acceptability issues around data protection, privacy and information governance associated with the linkage of health workers’ registration data and healthcare data.

“I am honoured to be a Co-Investigator of UK-REACH, a world-leading, UKRI-NIHR-funded and UK-wide study into whether, and if so how and why, ethnicity affects COVID-19 clinical outcomes in healthcare workers, and the impact of COVID-19 on the physical and mental health of BAME healthcare workers,” said Dr Dove about the project.

“I am particularly honoured to be leading the research on the ethical and legal implications of linking healthcare workers’ registration data to healthcare data over the next year and look forward to developing comprehensive analysis and interviews with key stakeholders and cohort participants.

“The University of Edinburgh has a long history of research excellence in exploring and addressing the ethico-legal implications of health data linkage; never has this area been so important in the time of a pandemic that appears to be causing particular significant morbidity and mortality risk for BAME groups. I very much look forward to extending this important exploration through desk-based and empirical research over the coming months and beyond.”

Learn more about the UK-REACH project