Doctors insist they should not be forced to terror-suspect patients

Doctors insist they should not be forced to report patients or colleagues they suspect of having extremist ideologies to anti-terror chiefs

  • The BMA warned the Government’s anti-terror programme was ‘intrusive’ 
  • Medics warned Prevent was ‘Orwellian’ and could lead to racial profiling 
  • The BMA conference heard it could damage the doctor – patient relationship

Doctors have insisted they should not be forced to report patients or colleagues they suspect of having extremist ideologies to anti- terror chiefs.

The Government’s anti-terror programme Prevent is ‘too intrusive’ and is damaging trust between doctors and patients, their union ruled.

The British Medical Association believes Prevent leads to racial profiling and says doctors should be able to refuse to be ‘drawn in to this Orwellian world’.

Members of the British Medical Association have claimed the government’s Prevent anti-terror programme has the potential to alienate doctors from their patients 

But others argue that reporting suspicions is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism.

Dr Jackie Appleby, of Tower Hamlets in East London, told the BMA’s annual conference yesterday: ‘We should strenuously defend our multi-cultural society which enriches us all.

‘Prevent makes us suspicious of each other, sows fear and hatred, causes racial profiling and does not work. Doctors’ relationships rely on the antithesis of this. We depend on building trust.’

The NHS has been responsible for helping to prevent terrorism since 2011, when Department of Health policy framed Prevent as a safeguarding measure. Since then, efforts have been made to train doctors and other health professionals to spot the signs of radicalisation.


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In 2015, the Prevent Statutory Duty under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act was made a statutory responsibility for the health sector. It stated that the sector needed to demonstrate ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.

But the motion, which was passed at the union’s conference in Brighton yesterday, called on the BMA to support all members who refuse to take part in the Prevent programme.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, pictured, said doctors were risking the security of the state by refusing to pass on information on suspected terrorists to the authorities 

Dr Colonel Glynn Evans, of BMA’s armed forces committee, told the meeting that doctors had a part to play in protecting people.

Speaking against the motion, he said: ‘We heard some emotive rhetoric there. I would like to put a bit of objectivity into this. This is about the objective policy that keeps all of us safe and is by and large working. Please do not pull the plug on this because of your emotions.’

Last year, a spate of terror attacks in London and Manchester left 36 dead. There have also been cases of NHS doctors who became extremists, either working as medics for Islamic State or plotting attacks.

Issam Abuanza left his wife and two young daughters penniless in Sheffield when he fled to Syria in July 2014 to become a doctor for jihadis.

And Bilal Abdulla was jailed for life in 2008 for plotting car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow the previous year. The Iraqi-born junior doctor attacked Glasgow airport in a Jeep laden with petrol and gas canisters. His co-conspirator, Kafeel Ahmed, died later from injuries sustained in the attack.

Several days earlier, Abdulla had driven one of two home-made Mercedes car bombs, each packed with gas cylinders, petrol and nails, into the West End of London but they failed to explode.

Commenting on the BMA motion, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘All of us have a responsibility and duty to our fellow citizens to be aware of extremism and report potential threats. Doctors should put the safety and security of the country and its people ahead of an individual patient.’

 

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