‘It’s your fault if I die’ – NHS staff recount patient abuse

NHS Lanarkshire releases video highlighting the abuse received by healthcare professionals during pandemic.

A Scottish health board has released a video highlighting some of the abuse that has been received by medical professionals during the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS Lanarkshire’s footage features healthcare professionals recalling the hostility, racism and violent threats they have been subject to by people receiving treatment for Covid-19 and by those getting their vaccine.

The 90-second video clip begins with a montage showing people clapping in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic when health staff were thanked for their work in the fight against coronavirus.

Then after the words “August 2021” appear on the screen, health board staff recount abuse they have received more recently.

Leaders from the health board and the health and social care partnerships in the region issued the footage to call out the behaviour – and to remind the public of the organisations’ zero-tolerance stance.

Sharon Ghani, of Burnbrae Medical Practice in Shotts, says she received racist abuse because of her surname and someone told her: “You should be ashamed to call yourself a nurse, youse just don’t give a f*** – it’s the nurses running the asylum in there, youse are nothing but a bunch of (redacted).”

Consultant Eugene Wong told of a time a patient said they could speak to the doctor “however I want”, before getting up close and saying “I’m going to f****** smash your face in”.

Andrea McIlroy, part of the health board’s coronavirus vaccination team, recounted an incident in which somebody said: “F*** yourself, it’s your fault if I die because of this vaccine… I’ll take your name and I’m to get my family to sue you whenever I die after this vaccine.”

Sandra Clark, another in the vaccination team, had a patient say: “I don’t even believe Covid exists – are you going to inject me with a blood clot just now?”

Speech and language therapy worker Heather Sturgeon was told: “Call yourself a caring profession? You don’t care at all – I hope this happens to your child.”

Another “snarled at” Elaine Fraser at Bothwell Medical Centre that she was “not to use a doctor’s death as an excuse for not being able to give him an appointment that day”.

Heather Knox, chief executive of NHS Lanarkshire; Ross McGuffie, chief officer of Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire; and Marianne Hayward, interim chief officer of South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, have united in a statement against the abuse.

They said: “This clip is so raw that it’s brought several senior colleagues, with many years of experience, to tears.

“Sadly, we know this offers a harrowing snapshot of the harsh reality our health and social staff are experiencing on a wider basis due to the behaviour of a minority of people.

“We have a clear message to those who would display any form of violent or aggressive behaviour, be it verbal or physical, towards our staff: It never has been tolerated and it will certainly not be tolerated now.

“We are continually working in partnership with local police in the management of aggressive and violent individuals and we will continue to do so.”

The short clip has been issued as health and social care partners continue to deal with pressures normally associated with winter months.

As has been well publicised, a combination of Covid cases, the effort to recover services and a shortage of staff due to annual leave or those having to self-isolate as a result of contacts outside of work is having an impact.

Unprecedented pressure is being felt across acute, community and primary care.

The statement continues: “Recent announcements that most Covid restrictions are to end from August 9 are a cause for great optimism and indeed celebration.

“That doesn’t mean, however, that our health and care services will instantly return to where we were before the pandemic. On the contrary. We have a very long way to go in the recovery process and we’ve called on the people of Lanarkshire to play their part by turning to the right place at the right time to help alleviate the pressures.

“Please be kind to our staff and colleagues who are committed to caring, no matter the circumstances. People can get frustrated, and we understand that – but think carefully before you speak and act.”

Staff who participated in the video were praised for their bravery.

The joint statement read: “It’s very evident that each and every one of these incidents have been very distressing for all those involved.

“The staff who have taken a stand and spoken out about their experience have shown great courage.

“It’s shone a light on the issue and allowed us to reiterate to those affected, and wider staff groups, support’s available – and that they do not need to tolerate such unpalatable behaviour.”

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