Britain’s National Health Service will allow staff to deny emergency treatment to patients deemed racist of sexist starting in April.
The new policy, reported Tuesday by The Telegraph, came following a survey of more than 569,000 staff members of the NHS, the United Kingdom’s government-run health care service. More than 40,000 respondents claimed “discrimination” at work from patients, members of a patient’s family or the public. Additional staff reported discrimination from managers or colleagues.
The poll surveyed workers in hospitals, ambulances and community services.
The NHS previously allowed staff to deny treatment only if a patient was aggressive or violent.
According to The Telegraph, 7 percent of respondents in the NHS survey reported discrimination, a one-quarter increase from five years ago.
Racism was the most commonly reported form of discrimination. But sexism and intolerance of religion and sexuality were more common than ever before.
Why the NHS will stop treating sexist and racist patients
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the report “appalling.” NHS head Simon Stevens said he was “determined to clamp down on abuse and aggression in all its forms.”
Of those who reported discrimination, nearly half said it was because of their ethnic background and one-fifth said it was because of their sex. Five percent said they were discriminated against for their sexual orientation.
Besides discrimination, 28.5 percent of respondents said they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse. Fifteen percent said they had they had been physically attacked.
In a letter Tuesday to NHS staff, Hancock said he was “horrified” by the statistics. He promised to do more to prevent abuse and particularly physical attacks against staff.
“Being assaulted or abused is not part of the job,” he said.
“There is far too much violence against NHS staff, and too much acceptance that it’s part of the job. Far too often I hear stories that the people you are trying to help lash out. I’ve seen it for myself in A&Es, on night shifts, and on ambulances. I am horrified that any member of the public would abuse or physically assault a member of our NHS staff but it happens too often.”
A&E is the British term for an emergency room, an acronym for “accident and emergency.”