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Hilary Garratt: Every nurse has a duty to help prevent terrorism

The heroic response of NHS staff to the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London has rightly been applauded. But under the Prevent programme NHS staff also have a responsibility to tackle the extremism that leads to violence, says the deputy chief nursing officer for England.
prevent

The heroic response of NHS staff to the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London has rightly been applauded. But under the Prevent programme, NHS staff also have a responsibility to tackle the extremism that leads to violence, says the deputy chief nursing officer for England

Manchester is my home city and, like many people across the North West and in London, I have been devastated by the appalling terrorist attacks of recent months, which have felt very close to home. We can all be proud of the incredible way that the NHS family responded to the attacks, swiftly and with such heroic professionalism.

Prevention and safeguarding are familiar concepts in the NHS, well understood in relation to health and well-being. However, prevention is also about keeping people protected from harm,

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The heroic response of NHS staff to the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London has rightly been applauded. But under the Prevent programme, NHS staff also have a responsibility to tackle the extremism that leads to violence, says the deputy chief nursing officer for England

prevent
Emergency services staff at the scene of the London Bridge attack. Picture: Getty Images

Manchester is my home city and, like many people across the North West and in London, I have been devastated by the appalling terrorist attacks of recent months, which have felt very close to home. We can all be proud of the incredible way that the NHS family responded to the attacks, swiftly and with such heroic professionalism.

Prevention and safeguarding are familiar concepts in the NHS, well understood in relation to health and well-being. However, prevention is also about keeping people protected from harm, and it is our duty as NHS staff to ensure we identify and support vulnerable people who could be tempted down the path of extremism – whether radical Islamism or poisonous far-right hatred.

The nature and scope of our work means that NHS staff are uniquely placed to help safeguard those at risk of extremism and those they might harm. That is why we all have a statutory duty under the government’s Prevent strategy to play a part in keeping our country safe.

Doing our utmost

The recent attacks have brought home the fact that all of us need to understand how these duties are applied across organisations and systems.

A few years ago, female genital mutilation, child sexual exploitation and modern slavery were not talked about routinely, but focused effort has resulted in good standards of mainstream practice and reduction in harm.

The time is right to review our efforts to ensure we are doing our utmost within the national Prevent programme.

NHS England has six regional prevent co-ordinators (RPCs) who help NHS organisations build the necessary capabilities to combat extremism and radicalisation. They facilitate the crucial links with local NHS and other key organisations who also play a part in keeping our communities safe.

Reviewing approaches

These co-ordinators also support my role when I work at policy level with the Department of Health, the Home Office and the European Radicalisation Network. I met the regional co-ordinators in mid-June to explore whether we are doing all we can to prevent future tragedies.

I would encourage everyone to take time to talk to colleagues and staff, and think critically and constructively. I would also urge you to make contact with your lead for safeguarding, or the regional prevent co-ordinators, to ensure that we are doing all we can to prevent further bloodshed and loss of life.

Together with the national safeguarding board we are reviewing some of our approaches and work programmes. Starting with nursing students in Wolverhampton, we will be piloting some undergraduate training that we then want to apply to other areas, strengthening undergraduate and postgraduate clinical education for Prevent.

Support for primary care

We are also working with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Department of Health and the Home Office and will publish guidance supporting mental health organisations. We will work with the Home Office to review all training. In consultation with the Royal College of General Practitioners we will develop a bespoke programme of support for primary care.

Finally, we will be aligning efforts across all arms-length bodies, such as NHS Improvement, Health Education England, Public Health England and the Care Quality Commission.

It is down to each and every one of us to ensure that we are playing our part. As a mother of children who could easily have been injured or killed, as a friend of someone who was, and as a professional proud of my colleagues, I know we can stand together.


Hilary Garratt is director of nursing, NHS England, and deputy chief nursing officer for England

@HilaryGarratt

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