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Independent review into BAME health inequalities covering parts of North Yorkshire

An independent review has been commissioned into the impact of COVID-19 on health inequalities and support needed for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and staff in part of North Yorkshire.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair

The review, covering an area including Harrogate and Craven, will be chaired by Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, a leading figure in national health and care policy.

It has been commissioned by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, the fourth-largest integrated care system in the county, made up NHS organisations, councils, Healthwatch, charities, community and voluntary organisations. The partnership covers Bradford district and Craven; Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield.

It will build on the report findings published by Public Health England last month regarding the disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19, as well as learning from the experience of its own partners. It aims to strengthen understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities and staff, review and accelerate existing work on health inequalities.

Rob Webster, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership CEO Lead, said: “Our Partnership had already set out 10 big ambitions in the Five Year Plan to tackle health inequalities, including for BAME communities and staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that we need to make these a reality as soon as possible. We have a fantastic group of BAME network chairs who are directly influencing our work across the leadership and priority programme areas, including preventing ill health, cancer and maternity care. I am delighted that Professor Dame Donna has agreed to work with us as we seek to make the biggest improvements that we can.”

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair said: “I welcome the opportunity to work with colleagues in West Yorkshire and Harrogate in what I expect will be a challenging and constructive review. We can only truly understand the indirect impacts of COVID-19 and how this disproportionately affects specific groups of people by talking to those with experience. I’m hopeful that together we can influence change, both in the short and long term.”

The work will finish in the autumn, with an independent report published setting out the next steps.

The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Local Maternity System has created a series of films in community languages, delivered by clinicians, that aim to raise awareness among pregnant BAME women about risk factors, signs and symptoms of coronavirus infection and how to protect themselves.

The films advise women that if they, or a member of their household, develop any of the coronavirus symptoms it is important that they stay isolated at home and call their midwife or doctor. Local maternity units are open 24 hours a day to give advice and make care plans for affected women, which may include coming in to hospital.

Carol McKenna, CEO Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Maternity Programme and Chief Officer for NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG and NHS North Kirklees CCG said:

“Most pregnant women who contract Coronavirus will experience only mild or moderate symptoms and will recover quickly. But we know that some women, especially those with BMI over 25 or who have diabetes or some other health conditions and women from Asian, Black African Caribbean, Black African and some other ethnic groups are more likely to become very unwell if they contract coronavirus and might need to be cared for in hospital.

Maternity staff across West Yorkshire and Harrogate are fully aware of the extra risks that women from BAME backgrounds face. We want women to know that if they have any concerns about their health or that of their baby they can and should make early contact with their midwife or doctor so that they can be quickly assessed and given all the care that they need.”