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Report finds NHS patients referred to Prevent for “watching Arabic TV” and for planning pilgrimage trips to Mecca

Report finds NHS patients referred to Prevent for “watching Arabic TV” and for planning pilgrimage trips to Mecca

Categories: Latest News

Thursday March 22 2018

A report by Warwick University has found that four NHS mental health trusts (of 54) are being used as Prevent surveillance to screen all patients of radicalisation and states that there is “evidence to suggest that the mentally ill are being inappropriately stigmatised as terrorism risks”.

The report is part of a Wellcome Trust funded research project that surveyed 329 NHS staff on the significance of the Prevent duty in the NHS.

The Prevent duty is a legal obligation, introduced by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 requiring NHS trusts to train staff to report individuals at risk of being radicalised. The UK is the only country in the world that has incorporated a duty to report radicalisation into its healthcare system.

The new report raises important questions about the legitimacy of the Prevent duty within the NHS, with more than half (52%) of the survey respondents disagreeing that “Prevent belongs in healthcare”.

The results also found that 70% of the respondents “were ‘likely’, or ‘very likely’” to refer someone for the “possession of Islamic/Anarchist philosophy books”. Importantly, the Prevent training programme does not indicate these as factors indicative of radicalisation.

The authors add that “academic research suggests that the philosophically and religiously literate are actually less susceptible to radicalisation” and warn that “respondents are drawing their attitude from popular culture rather than official training or academic research”.

The results of the report also found a number of referrals being made that were highly questionable.

One forensic psychiatrist interviewed as part of the study said: “it’s going to be a bit Mickey Mouse […] as I say, I’m ashamed, it’s totally unscientific and it’s going to be based on opinion, so it’s a bit crap really, but it’s just trying to get at what’s going on”.

One referral involved “an Asian man” who was considered a risk because he was planning a “future trip to Saudi Arabia”; the “Asian man” was planning a Hajj trip to the holy city of Mecca.

Another referral was made when a healthcare professional considered a child watching an “Arabic televised news channel” at risk of radicalisation. The family was “reported to social care as a potential case of radicalisation”.

The authors of the report make the recommendation that staff “beware of unconscious bias when making Prevent referrals”.

Mr Ben Wallace MP, the security minister, has suggested criticism of Prevent in the NHS is exaggerated stating that: “Prevent is no more a surveillance scheme than the safeguarding schemes that have always been in place for healthcare workers to report signs of domestic or sexual abuse”.

He added: “We all have a duty to protect vulnerable people from being groomed by those who seek to exploit them for the purposes of sexual, criminal or extremist exploitation”.

Mr Wallace also spoke about how referrals from the public and the public sector have led to more than 1,000 people being supported.

The Home Office’s document on the impact of the Prevent duty in 2015/16 showed that how more than a third of all referrals made to Prevent are dismissed as “requiring no further action”, with only 5% of all referrals receiving further intervention.

Prevent has been previously criticised by more than 140 experts, including Professor Noam Chomsky, and bodies such as The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the National Union of Teachers, the National Union of Students and the Muslim Council of Britain

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