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Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Day 37 of self-isolation - The curious case of BAME doctors

The curious case of BAME doctors

All over the world, black and brown people are dying in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19. It's been suggested that this is owing to socio-economic factors; they are lower paid, and have less access to spacious accommodation, good quality food and good healthcare.

But it's also been suggested that this is down to clinical factors. It's true, for example, that the main benefit of pale skin in temperate climes, is that it's faster at making vitamin D, and vitamin D is generally thought to be important to the immune system. And there are other clinical differences between people of differing origin.

So here's two facts.

1. The first 10 doctors in the UK named as having died from the virus were all BAME. Since doctors tend to be paid irrespective of skin tone, that argues for a clinical explanation.

2. BAME are 13% of the population, but BAME make up 44% of doctors and 24% of nurses. Of the 82 front line health and social care workers who have died of Covid-19, 61% were BAME.

I do understand that "race" is a controversial topic, but it seems to me that we owe it to our NHS workers to investigate this. One way forward would be to issue vitamin D supplements to all front line NHS staff; this would end any possible D deficiency, and then we could see if that reduces the death rate. I believe that vitamin D tablets are cheap and plentiful (I just bought a load online), so it would be an easy test to make.

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