Safeguarding training for NHS staff is being squeezed by requirements to school them in identifying adults at risk of becoming terrorists, it has been claimed.
Care services minister Paul Burstow has promised to raise the issue with NHS chief executive David Nicholson after it was raised with him by a health safeguarding lead at last week’s Action on Elder Abuse annual conference.
She said strategic health authorities were mandating NHS organisations to carry out training for staff in the government’s Prevent strategy, which is designed to stop people become radicalised, and the responsibility was falling on safeguarding leads.
As a result, leads were being diverted from organising training in areas such as the deprivation of liberty safeguards or the Mental Capacity Act. This is despite Department of Health advice that the Prevent training is not mandatory.
The safeguarding lead told Burstow: “Please minister, will you write to the chief executives of the SHAs and say ‘this is not compulsory and there are other priorities?”
Burstow replied: “I will speak to the NHS chief executive, David Nicholson, and ask him to tell me why they are mandating training in this area when there are other areas where mandating training in the NHS is more important, like dementia awareness.”
The latest version of the Prevent strategy was published by the Home Office in June 2011.
It says that people with learning disabilities or mental health problems may be more vulnerable to radicalisation, and adds: “The key challenge for the healthcare sector is to ensure that, where there are signs that someone has been or is being drawn into terrorism, the healthcare worker can interpret those signs correctly, is aware of the support which is available and is confident in referring the person for further support.
“Preventing someone from becoming a terrorist or from supporting terrorism is substantially comparable to safeguarding in other areas, including child abuse or domestic violence.”
Last December, the DH published its own toolkit on Prevent for healthcare organisations, which said that action on the strategy was “most appropriately managed within existing safeguarding structures”, with an emphasis on support for individuals rather than enforcement.
However, it made clear that the toolkit was guidance and “[did] not impose any new requirements on healthcare organisations”.
Speaking today, a DH spokesperson said: “Decisions on how to implement Prevent are made locally. Strategic health authorities lead on this work at regional level, and support organisations through a range of programmed workshops for frontline workers. ”