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News BMA annual representative meeting

BMA is urged to back doctors who refuse to take part in government’s Prevent programme

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2869 (Published 29 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2869
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Doctors have urged the BMA to support members who refuse to take part in the government’s Prevent programme.

Under the strategy, which is part of the UK government’s counterterrorism plan, NHS organisations are legally obliged to report people who they think may be at risk of becoming terrorists. General practices are not covered by this directive.

The BMA’s annual representative meeting in Brighton passed a motion saying it believed that the programme leads to racial profiling. After an electronic vote the meeting also backed a call for the BMA to support all members who choose not to engage with the programme (61% in favour, 39% against).

Last year an investigation by The BMJ found low levels of referrals to Prevent since it was introduced, suggesting that it is having little impact in the NHS.1

Jackie Applebee, of Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee, who proposed the motion, said that the programme was not only ineffective but also responsible for building “a climate of fear and mistrust” that was contributing to racism.

“Prevent does stoke the hostile environment. It sows fear and does not work,” she said. “There are already safeguarding measures [that allow doctors to report concerns].”

Glynn Evans, of the BMA’s Armed Forces Committee, spoke against the motion, arguing that Prevent was “by and large working.” He added, “Please don’t pull the plug on this because of your emotion.”

But the motion was passed after other doctors spoke in favour, including Thabo Miller, of the BMA’s Medical Academic Staff Committee. He said, “I dispute that it does keep us safe. The current strategy is neither sensitive nor specific. We [doctors] do have a role, but Prevent is not the right tool for the job.”

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