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Covid-19: Disparities in Risk and Outcome

Volume 677: debated on Tuesday 16 June 2020

On 9 June 2020, the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) made a point of order raising concerns that I misled the House about the role Professor Kevin Fenton had in the Public Health England (PHE) review of disparities in the risk and outcomes of covid-19, and also whether third-party submissions were part of its final report. As I was unable to attend to respond in person, I am writing now to do so.

On 4 June, I stated in the House that Professor Fenton was leading PHE’s review. A press release from PHE on the 4 May clearly stated, “Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health Director for London will lead the review” of how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from covid-19. In the same press release, Professor Fenton said “We are committed to hearing voices from a variety of perspectives on the impact of covid-19 on people of different ethnicities”. Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of PHE, has since written to the hon. Member and me to clarify that the review Professor Fenton led refers to a parallel piece of work to engage with individuals and organisations within the BAME community.

I understand the purpose of this was to gain insights into what communities themselves felt the impacts of covid-19 were. This work was separate to the epidemiological review of the data, which the chief medical officer commissioned. However, they are all part of the work PHE has been doing to investigate this issue. Today, a document summarising this engagement and its findings was formally submitted to me and due to be published by PHE.

In regard to the hon. Member’s suggestion that I misled the House about whether third-party submissions were part of PHE’s report, my statement as I made it is accurate. Third-party submissions are part of Professor Fenton’s extensive stakeholder engagement work as he made clear on 4 May, which will contribute to and inform the next stage of work that I am taking forward.