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How you can protect patients from financial scams

Community nurses should tackle financial abuse, says QNI Scotland's Clare Cable

Community nurses should tackle financial abuse, says QNI Scotland's Clare Cable


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The people most at risk of becoming victims of fraud and financial crime are often those who are socially isolated through illness or disability. In a recent survey undertaken by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS), 91% of the participating community based nurses told us they considered a significant proportion of people in their care are vulnerable to scams.

Most victims can ill afford the financial loss, which can leave them struggling to pay for rent, food and other necessities, with adverse effects on their physical and mental health. Being scammed all too often leads to an individual feeling unsafe and this can result in depression, stress, an erosion of self-confidence and trust, and often a deep sense of embarrassment or shame. That is bad for anyone, but even worse for someone who is already lonely, isolated or unwell.

Role in safeguarding

Scamming and financial abuse have been seen as matters for the police, the courts and consumer agencies. Keith Brown, director of the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice and a leading authority on financial scamming, from Bournemouth University, has identified the potential of community nursing teams and social care staff to play a crucial role in safeguarding.

Professor Brown sought funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing, to develop resource materials to support front-line staff. QNIS was then approached by Burdett to explore raising awareness of this excellent resource in Scotland.

Building on the work from Bournemouth University, the QNIS convened a conference recently, in Edinburgh, to raise health and social care leaders’ awareness of financial abuse. We hope that this will begin a conversation that enables community health and care staff to be more actively involved in working with other agencies across Scotland to protect people from financial abuse.

QNIS’ recent survey, completed by nearly 300 community nurses, revealed that only 7% of nurses feel well prepared to prevent or deal with financial abuse, while 93% want to become better informed and more able to help.

Trust and mutual respect

What can Scotland's 14,000 community nurses do to help those in their care? The community nurse may be the only person visiting someone who is housebound. Based on the regular contact and the relationships of trust and mutual respect they have with people they care for, community nurses are well-positioned to help in three main ways:

  • Stop scamming from happening in the first place Discuss the risks with those in their care and raise awareness of how scammers operate. Actively support people to overcome the sense of loneliness and isolation that scammers ruthlessly exploit by connecting them with neighbourhood networks and activities.
  • Identify the early warning signals of financial abuse Signpost sources of help, or (if warranted) alert safeguarding teams, the police and Trading Standards. This action is particularly important when working with people who have communication, memory or other difficulties that get in the way of advocating for themselves.
  • Support someone’s recovery Offer comfort, compassion, non-judgemental listening and practical, person-centred care for people suffering the physical and mental consequences of having been victimised by financial abuse.

Community nurses are hidden heroes in Scotland’s quest for better health and well-being for all, but especially for those who are isolated or vulnerable through illness. Safeguarding from, and responding effectively to, financial abuse is an important aspect of holistic community nursing care.

Community nurses are increasingly aware of this need and keen to learn more. Supported by the work from the team at Bournemouth and with our colleagues from agencies and charities across Scotland, QNIS is seeking to care for the carers, ensuring they have the knowledge and resources they need. This is not about adding to the workload of front-line staff, rather ensuring that they are equipped and supported to have informed conversations.

Scamming hurts the wallets of vulnerable people and robs them of their health, as well as their sense of safety, trust and well-being. Preventing and responding well to that growing threat is a priority.


Clare Cable is chief executive and nurse director of the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland


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