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Clamp Down On NHS Abuse Will Have Consequences 10 June 2006

Posted by David in Labour, Public Services.
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The BBC is reporting that there will be a clamp down on abuse of NHS Logoworkers in the NHS. Soon, any patients or relatives abusing staff could face a £1,000 fine and be removed from the premises. Whilst obviously we oppose abusing staff, what about patients? A small minority of staff treat patients with utter contempt, yet there is no fine or threats for them. There isn't even an easy complaints process, certainly not one that results in action. Unlike an open source system, patients are trapped and cannot go elsewhere. I feel this fine – despite its good intentions – will simply be used to stop patients and relatives causing a fuss when the level of care is below satisfactory. Staff will simply say "you'll get fined" and that will be that. It is highly unlikely to stop anyone really physically assaulting someone, particularly the mentally ill or drunk mentioned by the BBC article, since there are already laws against assault. If they ignor the law, they'll ignor fines too, and any other laws. Why not use the existing laws about abuse and asault, but do it properly? It's not as if there wouldn't be witnesses – the NHS is overcrowded!

Under our [Labour govt] proposals, patients and relatives who verbally abuse or threaten NHS staff could face a fine of up to £1,000. We will also give the NHS the power to physically remove offenders from the premises. We aim to create a culture of respect towards NHS staff, and where needed, enforce it – Health Minister Caroline Flint

Unison also said it wanted health workers to be given the same legal protection as police officers, through the introduction of a new crime – assault on a public sector worker. But surely, an assault is the same whoever it's on? Why are public sector workers to be held higher? Why not just use existing laws? A culture of respect must be grown, it cannot just be enforced.

Focus like this on abuse denies credit to the good workers within the NHS, whilst giving protection to a few less caring members of staff. Existing laws should be used if physical assault or threats takes place, but we shouldn't run the risk that patients and relatives complants may result in fines, or those complaints being stopped by threats of fines.

Ed: As a young child I once used a plastic baguette to 'donk' a doctor on the head – I also yelled at him a lot. He deserved it! The doctor had used me as a demo for his trainees without permission many times, calling us to endless unneccessary meetings dressed up as clinics, keeping us waiting hours while he had 'lunch', then there would sometimes be 7 or 8 others in the room who were never introduced. He did so to many people, yet no one would ever say anything. There was too much respect – he felt superior and patients felt overly greatful yet their taxes paid him! After they had all tested my knee's reflexes one day, one after the other, he did so, and I tested his head's with the baguette (which had handily been left nearby by someone unknown to me). Since he has been a lot better to everyone – including nurses – with no more time wasting and mystery guests. Perhaps free baguettes for all patients will create a new, safer complaints process?

Whatever, we do not need a sepperate set of rules for public sector workers. We need a better complaints system and a more responsive "customer is always right" NHS – so that most of this abuse would never happen. Then real abuse can be tackled with normal laws.

NHS Treatment

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