Clare Sibthorpe, Sky, February 18, 2020
Sexist and racist patients could be barred from non-emergency care at NHS trusts, under new rules to be enforced from April.
Currently, staff can refuse to treat non-critical patients who are verbally aggressive or physically violent towards them.
But these protections will extend to any harassment, bullying or discrimination, including homophobic, sexist or racist remarks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote to all NHS staff on Tuesday to announce stronger measures to investigate abuse and harassment towards staff, saying “no act of violence or abuse is minor”.
“Being assaulted or abused is not part of the job,” he said.
“Far too often I hear stories that the people you are trying to help lash out. I’ve seen it for myself in A&Es, on night shifts, and on ambulances.”
Mr Hancock said he was “horrified that any member of the public would abuse or physically assault a member of our NHS staff but it happens too often”.
Mr Hancock outlined a new joint agreement with police and the Crown Prosecution Service which will give police more powers to investigate and prosecute cases where NHS staff are the victim of a crime.
“All assault and hate crimes against NHS staff must be investigated with care, compassion, diligence and commitment,” he said.
These new rules were announced with the release of the 2019 NHS Staff Survey for England, which showed more than a quarter of NHS workers were bullied, harassed or abused in one year.
Four in 10 workers felt unwell due to work-related stress.
About one in seven of the some-569,000 staff surveyed reported being physically attacked – up slightly on the year before.
The poll found staff at ambulance, mental health and learning disability trusts were worst affected by abuse and violence.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said his service was “determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms.”
Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary of Unison, said that although she welcomed Mr Hancock’s “tough talk,” it came “many months after he promised to tackle violence”.
“These figures show there’s been no noticeable change,” she said.
A separate survey published by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found that one in five mental health patients do not feel safe in NHS care.
More than half of people with mental health problems in England also said their treatment was delayed, while 42% said they were diagnosed too late.