The National Health System, or NHS, will begin to refuse treatment to patients who are verbally aggressive, physically violent, or presenting any discriminatory or harassing behavior toward staff unless the case is an emergency, according to The Guardian. These new provisions come after abuse cases began to rise within the system. In the 2019 NHS Staff Survey for England, it was revealed that 29% of staff members had experienced at least one incident of bullying, harassment, or abuse in the past 12 months. Even more troubling, four in 10 workers felt sick or unwell due to work-related stress.
Staff in many of the most critical areas, including ambulance, mental health, and learning disability trusts appear to receive the worst of the abuse.
Matt Hancock, who serves as Health Secretary, informed all NHS staff on Tuesday of the stronger measures being taken to investigate abuse and harassment towards employees. He also outlined a joint agreement with police and the Crown Prosecution Service that gives authorities much more leeway when investigating and prosecuting individuals who harm NHS staff
“Being assaulted or abused is not part of the job. 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.”
Hancock went on to say that 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.” However, he is ensuring that these incidents do not go unnoticed.
“All assault and hate crimes against NHS staff must be investigated with care, compassion, diligence, and commitment,” he said.
Other higher-ups in the organizations are rallying behind the new regulations as well. NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said his service was “determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms,” while assistant general secretary of Unison, Christina McAnea, stood behind Hancock’s “tough talk,” claiming it came “many months after he promised to tackle violence.”
The protections also extend to homophobic, sexist, or racist remarks.