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Glasgow worst area for racism to health staff

Health workers in and around Glasgow are more likely to be subjected to racist abuse than those in any of other UK health board area, new figures have suggested.

An inquiry into the frequency of racial incidents reported by doctors, nurses, hospital workers and staff at doctor's surgeries and health centres during the last 12 months found the largest number was recorded across the premises of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

During that time, staff reported 76 incidents - the highest number of complaints across the UK's 133 NHS hospital trusts and health board areas.

The data, compiled by the BBC, found racial abuse against hospital workers is increasing and has risen 65% in four years.

In total, there were 694 racist incidents reported against NHS staff across the UK during 2012/13, compared to 420 physical or verbal assaults on staff in 2008/09.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said he was shocked by the figures and that right-thinking people would be appalled.

He said: "The NHS can be a high-pressure environment and staff and their managers often work in stressful situations.

"In some places we have job vacancies and a rising demand for services, and the pressure to deliver care can be extraordinary.

"The fact staff get racially abused should appal every right-minded person. With rising levels of violence against staff in the NHS, it is shocking that staff can also be subject to racial abuse."

Mr Royles said the NHS was one of the most diverse employers in the UK, something that should be regarded as a strength.

He said: "We should be proud of that. And proud of the contribution staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds make to the NHS.

"We know from research that diversity is important for patient care and that a diverse workforce is a more productive workforce."

It is not clear if the racial incidents reported by staff of the Greater Glasgow health board included anti-English abuse, as the type of offence was not disclosed.

However, a board spokeswoman said the increase in the number of reported incidents may be due to better reporting by staff who had been subject to abuse rather than an increase in hostility from patients.

The board brought in new policies encouraging staff to report incidents about five years ago, which corresponds to the rise uncovered by the study.

The spokeswoman said: "NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has strict zero tolerance towards violence against our staff. They are entitled to work free of threats, assaults, intimidation or abuse.

"We take very seriously any act of physical or verbal abuse against staff. We fully encourage them in taking the perpetrators of physical or verbal abuse against them through the justice system.

"Our staff deserve basic courtesy and respect and to be able to work without fear of intimidation, abuse or violence."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Racism is unaccept­able. NHS Scotland is committed to providing all staff with a safe and secure environment. Violence and aggression against staff is taken very seriously and NHS organisations support criminal proceedings against anyone who assaults a staff member.

"The NHS is committed to promoting a diverse workforce representing modern Scotland and works hard to ensure a safe working environment for all."

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