As the nation comes together to mark the first anniversary of MEN Arena attack, Hilary Garratt CBE – NHS England’s Director of Nursing and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England gives thanks to the NHS staff for their bravery and professionalism, and explains how we can all play a part in preventing such further tragedies.
With the images still so clear in my mind, it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since the tragic events that occurred on 22 May 2017 in my hometown of Manchester.
As the news broke that a number of people, including children, had been killed or seriously injured at an Ariana Grande concert, followed by the revelation that it was a targeted attack, it was in the most horrendous of circumstances that we saw the very best of people, as the emergency services without fear for their own safety rushed to help the injured and dying.
We can all be extremely proud of the bravery and professionalism shown not only that night but in the following days, weeks and months by the whole of the NHS family. From the first responders who faced an unprecedented scene, the hospital staff who nursed those with horrific injuries back to health, to the mental health practitioners who helped the victims and families comes to terms with the life changing injuries suffered, to name but a few, they all played their part in healing Manchester.
As well as dealing with the horrific aftermath of such an attack, the NHS can also help avert such extreme violence from taking place.
We have all been on a journey of understanding and learning; recognising that radicalisation takes many forms and understanding that vulnerable individuals, some of who use our services, can be susceptible to a range of influences that can lead to extreme violence that affects all communities within our society.
As one of the country’s senior leads for safeguarding across the NHS, I have over the last four years been on a journey with staff in understanding and positioning the Prevent agenda as a key programme of work. Prevent has equal importance to other safeguarding programmes in underpinning professional practice and the interaction NHS staff have with the public each and every day.
There are over 1.4 million people working in the NHS, and on average we see over 42,000 people per hour. That’s a lot of people. As NHS staff we are all well placed to identify and support vulnerable individuals who may be susceptible to supporting or becoming involved with violent extremism, helping to protect them and all our communities.
The Prevent programme, as part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy known as CONTEST, is an essential way of doing this. It provides NHS employees with the resources and relationships with other public services to be able to be able to safeguard potentially vulnerable individuals.
I have seen a marked improvement in the Prevent training figures in 2017/18 which is really pleasing. To date, 730,436 NHS staff have received Basic Prevent Awareness training, with over 400,000 having also completed the advanced level training. From April 2015 to March 2016, the NHS made 457 referrals to the Channel Panel for further review. In the same time period, a total of 7,631 referrals were made from the various sectors involved in the Prevent programme, including those from concerned community, friends and family members.
At a local level, NHS Prevent Leads continue to be respected contributors to Channel Panels, and I regularly receive positive feedback about the high level of local engagement and cooperation that takes place with local authorities, further education and our policing colleagues. This collaboration is contributing to much more robust plans for individuals who accept support via the Channel process.
It is important though that we do not sit on our laurels, as there is much more to do to ensure that all people are safe from radicalisation that leads to violence across our communities.
We must build on our understanding of the many complex issues that can lead someone, often young and possibly vulnerable, down the path of violent extremism. This will help us develop our safeguarding practice further by providing early support with effective measures.
I am keen that all NHS staff have the correct level of training that will support them in their day to day work, whether that is in hospital, community or primary care setting.
In this spirit we are moving to make training more accessible through online e-learning. Alongside the face to face Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) training, we have also introduced Level 3 Prevent e-learning for use by all health staff, and Mental Health Level 3 Prevent e-learning for our mental health practitioners. Details can be found on our Prevent Programme webpage.
My vision for Prevent in the NHS is that all staff understand the impact that they can personally make in their work places and communities to eradicate violent extremism of any form and help reduce the risk of further terrorist attacks from taking place.
One year on as we reflect on the MEN Arena attack and remember the victims and courage shown by the emergency services, I ask you all to use the influence you have to recognise and address the relevant behaviours and communicate with colleagues, to ensure that they see this important aspect of safeguarding as business as usual.