Dealing fairly with racist patientsBMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6575 (Published 19 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6575
All rapid responses
It’s very helpful to start the discussion on this issue of dealing with racist behaviour in the context of duty of care. Using an analogy from a sports model only has a limited relevance to the healthcare settings. As playing a sport is not a basic human right but access to treatment is.
Similarly, duty of care for players is significantly lower than physically or mentally unwell people. Does that mean that NHS staff has to put up with this racist abuse from patients & carers? My answer to that is, No, not at all. We should stick to the NHS Zero Tolerance of Abuse policy and if that results in withdrawal of services or reporting to the Police, it should be done as deemed appropriate to a particular situation. However, a fair & proportionate response must have two components--
1: An element of oversight on such decisions by a group of individuals with relevant experience & ability to do a dispassionate & objective review.
2: It’s not the intention of the accused but the impact on the victim of reported abuse which matters the most. We should have a mechanism to ensure the affected staff members are properly listened to & supported if they report or are noticed to be the subject of such abuse.
Healthcare services are only sustainable as a public service if our staff feel well supported & valued coming to the workplace to serve to all people. Racist abuse should not be tolerated at all as it not only demoralises the affected staff, it renders our cherished NHS unsustainable.
Competing interests: No competing interests