‘Trust failed to protect me from racist attack, even though it knew the risk’

Nurse Colleridge Bessong accuses Pennine Care Trust over service user’s violent assault 

Mental health nurse Colleridge Bessong accuses Pennine Care Trust over service user’s violent assault 

Picture: iStock

A mental health nurse who was racially assaulted by a service user claims his employer knew the risk and should have protected him.

Colleridge Bessong claims Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester failed to protect him from violent attack in April 2017.

Test case for employer liability when staff face client abuse

He has now lodged an appeal against an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling that trust was not liable for the harassment of staff by clients.

'I still live with the memories of that attack today’

Colleridge Bessong

The case is significant because it is a test of whether an employer can be held liable for harassment directed at its staff. 


The proportion of NHS staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in England reporting discrimination in 2018

Source: Workforce Race Equality Standard

A service user punched Mr Bessong eight times and, using racist and obscene language, threatened to stab him with a pen.

Evidence of risk to the nurse

It later emerged the individual had expressed antipathy towards Mr Bessong during a meeting between nurses and patients earlier that day.

Mr Bessong, who did not attend the meeting, was not told of the comments by his manager.

'Patient was well known for racist behaviour but trust did not warn me'

He said he does not want other nurses to face similar abuse.

'I still live with the memories of that attack today,’ he said.

'The patient was well known for racist behaviour towards staff where I work, yet my employer and my manager saw no reason to take action to deal with the risk, nor did they warn me about the situation I was walking into when I commenced my night shift.'

Pennine Care Trust – we do not tolerate racism 

RCN senior legal officer Ferguson Doyle, who is representing Mr Bessong, said: 'We are clear that employers must be responsible and held to account for ensuring their staff are free from discrimination.'

Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust’s director of nursing, Clare Parker, said: 'We do not tolerate racism in any form and will always support staff if they experience it.

'Our inpatient services provide care for people with complex mental health needs, which can sometimes lead to challenging behaviour.'

The service user was convicted of a racially aggravated assault following the attack.

Related material

Ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal

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