NHS staff can soon refuse to treat racist or sexist patients under new laws

18 February 2020, 20:40

The new rules could be brought in in April
The new rules could be brought in in April. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

NHS staff could be able to refuse non-emergency treatment to sexist and racist patients from April under proposed laws.

It would extend the current laws, which allow staff to refuse to treat any patients who are verbally aggressive or physically violent toward them.

However, new protections would mean that this would extend to any harassment, bullying or discrimination, including homophobic, sexist or racist remarks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told NHS staff in a letter on Tuesday that stronger measures are needed to investigate abuse and harassment towards staff.

He said: "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.

"I am horrified that any member of the public would abuse or physically assault a member of our NHS staff but it happens too often.

The NHS will soon bar discriminatory patients
The NHS will soon bar discriminatory patients. Picture: PA

"All assault and hate crimes against NHS staff must be investigated with care, compassion, diligence and commitment."

The new rules have come about 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.

One in seven NHS staff members have reported being physically attacked.

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.