Mental health 'significant factor' in referrals to Prevent
Medact has claimed that mental health appears to be a significant factor behind referrals from the NHS to the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent programme.
Public sector workers, including doctors, nurses and other health professionals, are under a legal duty to refer any individual they suspect could be vulnerable to radicalisation to Prevent. Data shows that, of the total 5,738 referrals in the year to March 2019, 10 per cent came from the health sector.
Medact, the UK-based medical charity undertook an 18-month study and found that a significant proportion of NHS referrals to Prevent came from mental health trusts or mental health departments. Freedom of information responses from a sample of four mental health trusts showed 89 referrals to Prevent in the two years to March 2019, compared with a combined 90 referrals from 18 non-specialist trusts in the same period.
Within the 18 non-specialist trusts, 40 referrals came from mental health departments in the two-year period, compared with 45 combined from all other departments.
The charity’s report, False Positives: the Prevent Counter-Extremism Policy in Healthcare, concluded that mental health patients were disproportionately represented among Prevent referrals, reflecting previous research published in the British Medical Journal in 2016, which similarly found that mental health trusts in England recorded much higher levels of referrals.
Hilary Aked, research manager at Medact, said: “Prevent is part of a worrying trend of government seeking to turn health workers into an arm of the security state. It undermines confidentiality and trust between practitioners and their patients. Our report shows that Prevent is discriminatory, and it will only worsen health inequalities already faced by minority communities. It’s crucial that the Prevent policy in the NHS is repealed.”
The findings come at a time of increased interest in the links between mental health and violent extremism or terrorism after a series of high-profile incidents in the UK involving lone attackers.