Virtual consultations meant access to healthcare for BAME people was adversely affected, doctor tells the People’s Covid Inquiry

Virtual consultations meant access to healthcare for BAME people was adversely affected, doctor tells the People’s Covid Inquiry, 6 May 2021

Last night at the sixth session of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public’s [1] People’s Covid Inquiry, [2]  Dr Latifa Patel (BMA Deputy Chair of the representative body, but speaking in a personal capacity) described how access to medical appointments during the pandemic particularly disadvantaged certain societal groups. She related how virtual appointments “almost discriminated against” minority ethnic groups and those on low incomes:

“Where we [NHS staff] couldn’t get hold of mobile phone numbers, these patients were being prematurely discharged. We know that those on low incomes change their mobile number more often…Appointments are meant to be private, patients were making appointments [holding consultations] in cars and in toilets, not everyone could afford the space in their homes to attend consultations or isolate from their families…space is a privilege; the whole motto [Hands, Face, Space] was a privilege…”

Dr Patel went on to explain how there were further barriers which impeded some patients from BME backgrounds and those in receipt of low incomes, from accessing medical care as patients required a good internet connection and some needed access to translation services “so communication itself was wholly unacceptable.”

Session six (entitled Inequalities and Discrimination) [3] examined the differential impact of Covid and the pandemic on BAME people. Even prior to the pandemic there was strong evidence that racism, unequal education, job and economic opportunities, housing and access to healthcare has affected the health of people in BAME communities unequally. The Covid pandemic and the role of key workers who carried on working, who could not work at home, and who kept the transport, health, and other services going, compounded all of these issues for BAME people and were reflected in the illness and death rate.

Aliya Yule from the campaign group Migrants Organise, said she believed migrants were scapegoated by the government for a lack of available public services and pressure on those services, and that in her opinion charging migrants for medical care was a pre-cursor to experiment with how charging for healthcare generally would be received by the public at large. Yule also spoke about a person that had died of Covid at home and received no medical care as a result of being too afraid to access the NHS due to fears over his possible deportation. This, she relayed, was a real concern over very unwell people accessing treatment. Even though treatment for Covid would have been available at no charge, other conditions, if identified, would be subject to required payment, and the rules make migrants generally both confused and fearful.

Spokespeople are available for interview (subject to availability) and more information is available upon request.

Contact Samantha Wathen, Press Officer for Keep Our NHS Public [email protected]  or Call/WhatsApp: 0777 6047472

Notes to editors

  1. Keep Our NHS Public is a national independent organisation campaigning for a well-funded, publicly owned and provided NHS
  2. Home | PeoplesCovidInquiry A host of leading academics, celebrities, campaigning groups and unions together with frontline workers and members of the public, will give evidence in an attempt to learn lessons from the events surrounding this pandemic. In the absence of an arranged formal public investigation, campaigners believe that the time for a Covid Inquiry is now, in order to analyse why this country has suffered over 100,000 deaths, and what lessons should be learned to inform future decision and policy making. The 3 remaining sessions will take place fortnightly until June and focus on different topics relevant to the pandemic. The People’s Covid Inquiry will culminate in a report with conclusions and a set of recommendations which will be presented to the government. Testimony gathered will provide the basis for evidence-based recommendations on the provision of health and social care in the UK, including the future funding and organisation of the NHS. Sessions are free to access and open to all.
  3. Watch the session here: