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28 Aug 2020

New online tool enables doctors to calculate the risk of Covid-19 exposure

New online tool enables doctors to calculate the risk of Covid-19 exposure
This article has been produced and written by Hospital Dr

The tool was developed by a multidisciplinary team, led by Dr David Strain at the University of Exeter Medical School and co-chair of the BMA Medical Academic Staff Committee.

The expertise of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee and Consultants Committee and the Faculty of Public Health, Primary Care and Commissioners was also harnessed.

The resource has already been adopted by the BMA, and is available here.

In England, whereas 44% of medical staff are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds, nearly 94% of the doctors who have so far died of COVID-19 and similarly disproportionately higher rates of other health care workers are of BAME heritage.

The use of a tool that can identify those at highest biological risk and attempt to mitigate this risk can potentially save lives.

Among those to have used it is Dr Anil Jain, a Consultant Radiologist who is now working from his home in Manchester after the calculator revealed his high-risk level.

Dr Jain is of Indian heritage, and 59-year-old. Dr Jain has underlying health conditions which put him at very high.

“The tool has been incredibly useful,” said Dr Jain. “I scored highly on completing it. That led to a conversation that has resulted in me working from home and shielding. It’s a relief to feel safer, and to know my employer understands and supports that need.”

The tool is a response to calls from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and Public Health England for “culturally competent” tools to evaluate risk.

It incorporates the evidence from a report commissioned by NHS England regarding the impact of COVID-19 on black and ethnic minority communities. 

Dr David Strain, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Healthcare workers are on the front line, and we know their exposure makes them particularly susceptible.

“Evidence shows that people from BAME backgrounds are among those at higher risk, and our tool aims to facilitate conversations to keep people safer, such as thinking about how roles are allocated. The tool could also be useful in other workplaces to help reduce risk.”

The calculator uses a simple points-based system which helps define an individual’s risk of developing severe Covid-19 that could lead to death, or require intensive care treatment.

The questionnaire takes into account aspects known to increase risk, such as being male, being from a BAME background, and having certain pre-existing health conditions.

A point is added for each factor that increases risk, compared to the baseline population, and the higher the total points, the higher the person’s risk. The tool is designed to aid conversations around the kind of duties a person should be assigned at work.

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