Felicia Kwaku understands better than most the human toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a senior frontline nurse, she has witnessed the virus’s disproportionate and too often deadly effect on her fellow ethnic minority colleagues.
A clinician for more than 30 years, Ms Kwaku, who is associate director of nursing at King’s College NHS Foundation Trust in south London, chronicled with growing horror the death toll among black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) health and social care workers as the pandemic took hold this spring.
The 52-year-old, who also lost her uncle to the virus, was able to use her position at the head of a key advisory group for the nursing profession to highlight the concerns of Bame clinicians and the risks they were facing as hospitals coped with an extraordinary influx of seriously and critically ill Covid patients.
A study commissioned by London mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed the greater threat posed to those from ethnic minority backgrounds, finding this week that black people have almost twice the risk of dying from coronavirus as white people.
Ms Kwaku, from Islington, north London, said she had catalogued multiple concerns from Bame health workers concerning issues such as provision of protective equipment (PPE) and being deployed to Covid wards, producing a list of recommendations for NHS managers.
Ms Kwaku receives an OBE for her services to nursing. She said it was “timely and appropriate” that Bame people were being recognised for their efforts during the pandemic.
On receiving her honour, she said: “It’s my responsibility to represent my profession really well, and for Bame people who don’t get to these levels a lot, it’s a real privilege for me.”