By Lucette Davies from Hampden Park

We have all been hurt by the pandemic but the pain has certainly not been spread evenly across our population. As Covid-19 highlights the vulnerability of certain groups we would be foolish to not use this to examine racial inequality in our NHS.

The NHS has equality woven into its very fabric and acknowledging racial inequality in the service may feel uncomfortable. But it is vital we do, if we care about the service maintaining itself as fundamentally equitable.

Black and minority ethnic (BAME) people make up 1/3 of the 1.3m NHS workforce. Our NHS has always relied on people coming from overseas to maintain its workforce. If we want our NHS to survive, we must look after that section of the workforce.

But 72% of all the NHS and care workers who have died from Covid-19 have been from BAME backgrounds. This figure is disproportionate to the actual ratios that exist across the total workforce.

This campaign sent a Freedom of Information Request to East Sussex Healthcare Trust to ask if they had risk assessed all their workers from BAME for Covid-19 separately. We were assured they had.

But we know that those from lower incomes have also been disproportionally affected by Covid-19. And we know that BAME workers are more likely to live on lower incomes.

In the NHS, Workforce Race Equality Statements (WRES) have shown that the number of BAME staff who reported unequal access to career opportunities is increasing. The WRES report also showed that the number of BAME staff who report discrimination, harassment and bullying at work is increasing.

Aside from being morally repugnant, this obvious lack of equality would be an own goal for us if we fail to address it.

The fact that our trust has conducted risk assessments on its BAME staff is not enough.

So, we have written to the trust to ask that all BAME staff are prioritised for (PPE) Personal Protective Equipment. We have also shared a petition on our new website calling for the UK Government to scrap the NHS immigration surcharge for all NHS and care workers. Please visit this website and sign the petition.

Unless a person has a British passport or indefinite leave to remain in the UK, they are expected to pay a surcharge of £624 to access free care on the NHS. But BAME workers in our NHS are both paying taxes in the UK and represent a section of the workforce that we could not manage without. The least we should do is provide them with free healthcare.

We are as a campaign supportive of a new Stand Up to Racism group in Eastbourne. This campaign will launch on UN Antiracism Day on 20 March. You can get in touch with the group at this email address or find them on Facebook. eastbournestanduptoracism@gmail.com.