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National Health Service to Deny Treatment for Racism or Sexism



A National Health Service (NHS) trust has announced that it will withdraw treatment from patients it deems to be racist or sexist.

The North Bristol NHS Trust announced that patients will be subject a “sports-style disciplinary yellow card and then final red card in which treatment would be withdrawn as soon as is safe” on its official website.

The policy would cover not just “Threatening and offensive language” but also “Racist or sexist language, gestures or behaviour” more generally, as well as “malicious allegations” — a rather troubling caveat, given the NHS has in the past been entangled in large-scale malpractice scandals which hospitals and staff have initially denied.

“We have staff from many different backgrounds, from all over the world, and we pride ourselves on our commitment to equality which is a fundamental value of the NHS,” commented Andrea Young, Chief Executive for North Bristol NHS Trust.

“We’re sending a strong signal that any racism or discrimination is completely unacceptable – we want staff to challenge and report it and we want everyone to know that it will have consequences.”

How low the bar for deeming behaviour discriminatory and sufficiently “offensive” to withdraw treatment is not spelled out in explicit terms.

For example, in late 2017 an NHS patient who requested a female nurse to carry out a cervical smear complained when the hospital sent a person with “an obviously male appearance… close-cropped hair, a male facial appearance and voice, large number of tattoos and facial stubble” who insisted “My gender is not male. I’m a transsexual”.

It is not clear whether the patient could have fallen foul of the Bristol policy had it been in place and the nurse had chosen to take offence — and nor is it clear how far the trust’s assurances that it will only withdraw treatment once clinically safe extend, and if patients could, for example, be denied diagnostic procedures or so-called routine operations such as hip replacements, for which many patients have to wait eight months or more.

Another NHS trust for the area, the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, has previously been criticised for ordering the removal of the British flag from security staff stab vests after someone complained that the country’s national banner was “offensive”.

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