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RCS statement on risk assessment of BAME surgeons and trainees

02 May 2020

On Thursday 30 April, in the course of a media interview for Sky News, our President-elect Professor Neil Mortensen referenced his support for risk-assessment of staff, and where necessary, removing staff who are at high risk from frontline duties.  Following queries about our position on social media, he clarified his position on Radio Four’s World at One, 'I didn’t actually say that no BAME surgeon should be on the front line, it’s all about assessing risk.' 


The RCS leadership has been concerned for some time by reports that BAME surgeons, trainees and other NHS staff may be disproportionately at risk from COVID. We welcomed a review established on 16 April by Public Health England into the matter.

In a letter to trusts this week on the actions needed for the second phase of the NHS’ response to COVID, Sir Simon Stevens advised risk-assessment of BAME staff:

'Emerging UK and international data suggest that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Public Health England have been asked by DHSC to investigate this. In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.'

The RCS supports NHS England’s precautionary approach of risk-assessing staff at potentially greater risk, and making arrangements accordingly.  Where the risk is high, then staff should be protected. Similarly, when we discussed with government the policy of encouraging recently retired surgeons to return to help fight COVID, we advocated for risk-assessment, so that (where necessary) surgeons could return in roles that were not patient-facing – underlying health conditions and age being further risk-factors.


The RCS is hosting a webinar for surgical teams next Wednesday 6 May to to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on BAME healthcare workers. Surgeons and their teams can register for free

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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