Health

Sharp increase in NHS racist attacks

  • 16 December 2013
  • From the section Health
Nurse taking temperature
There are reports of a nurse from overseas being punched by a patient as she was trying to treat him

The number of racist verbal and physical attacks in the NHS has risen 65% in the past five years, Freedom of Information data suggests.

The total number of incidents rose from 420 in 2008-09 to 694 in 2012-13, figures seen by BBC Radio 5 live show.

The largest numbers of incidents were reported in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

The NHS said it was "shocking" that abuse takes place and any signs of discrimination are taken seriously.

Some NHS trusts said that higher numbers might be partially explained by improved data reporting systems.

Under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire programme found that NHS staff are reporting more racist abuse from patients than ever.

However, the reported incidents are very low when set against the 1.7m staff who work in the NHS in the UK.

At those hospitals which offered a breakdown of incidents, there were 567 involving patients or visitors and 33 involving NHS employees in 2012-13.

Of the 152 NHS trusts and boards, 133 responded to the FoI request, but a further 19 refused.

'Punched by patient'

They said they did not collect information on racist incidents, or that they had data protection concerns.

Among those affected was a nurse from Zimbabwe, who now works at a hospital in the Midlands, who told 5 live that he had been racially abused and sworn at while trying to treat patients.

He also described an incident when a nurse from Nigeria was punched by a patient as she was trying to treat him and security staff had to be called to help her.

Staff at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde reported the highest number of racist incidents, with 76 in 2012-13. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust reported 32.

A spokesman for NHS Fife, which reported an increase to 26 racist incidents in 2012-13 - the fourth highest NHS trust - said that this was down to staff being encouraged to report any racist incident.

Rona King, of NHS Fife, said: "NHS Fife is committed to addressing all racial incidents in a robust manner.

The NHS says it takes all reports of racist incidents seriously

"By ensuring that all incidents are reported we can support our staff and we have specifically been encouraging staff over the last couple of years to do so.

"This does not mean there has been an increase in the number of incidents but rather that staff are now reporting them. We are closely monitoring this and would hope to see a decrease in these figures in the future."

Responding to the FoI findings, Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: "With rising levels of violence against staff in the NHS, it's shocking that staff can also be subject to racial abuse. It's an issue the NHS takes seriously and, if staff do commit racial abuse, it is considered as gross misconduct.

"We should be proud of the contribution that staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds make to the NHS. We know from research that diversity is important for patient care and that a diverse workforce is a more productive workforce.

"Therefore, it is right that any signs of inequality or discrimination - factors which can significantly affect motivation - are taken seriously."

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