Labour’s shadow health secretary has accused the government of “covering up vital recommendations” that could help protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people from COVID-19.
Jonathan Ashworth’s criticisms come after Whitehall sources told Sky News the recommendations from a Public Health England (PHE) review were “held back” by the government, adding “ministers have had this element of the report”.
On Tuesday, the government issued the data element of the long awaited review, led by PHE national director for health and wellbeing Professor Kevin Fenton, following suggestions from sources it was set to be delayed because of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Data collected by PHE was published – but a “qualitative assessment”, including the recommendations for the government, was not.
The published review found people from BAME groups were up to twice as likely to die with COVID-19 than those from a white British background, but there were no recommendations on actions that could be taken to protect BAME lives.
Sources say the second half of the report contains work which looks at “social inequality” and “structural racism” within the UK and has information from 4,000 stakeholders and organisations.
Mr Ashworth told Sky News: “We know BAME people are more likely to die from COVID and more likely to fall seriously ill with COVID. This report needs to be published in full.
“Covering up vital recommendations is completely unacceptable. Action must be taken to protect those disproportionately at risk from this horrific virus.”
PHE did not deny that a “qualitative assessment” with recommendations for the government was issued as part of the findings.
It said: “Professor Fenton led PHE’s work on COVID-19 and BAME communities, engaging with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community over the past couple of months, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of the virus on their communities.”
However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman denied that only part of the report had been published.
“On Tuesday PHE published the rapid data review. The report was published in full,” they said.
“The valuable insight that Professor Fenton and PHE colleagues gathered will inform the important work that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch will now take forward.”
The equalities minister admitted in the Commons on Thursday there were “gaps” in the report.
“The report is welcomed, but it hasn’t gone far enough and we will take it where it needs to get to,” Ms Badenoch said.
Responding to questions from MPs, she added: “There was more I was hoping to see from this review.”
But, she said PHE could not collect data for morbidities, occupation and underlying health conditions so could not make recommendations.