Report reveals 98 per cent of Camden and Islington NHS Prevent referrals are ‘false positive’
PUBLISHED: 09:14 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:17 12 July 2020
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A report has found 98 per cent of referrals to the government’s Prevent initiative from the Camden and Islington NHS trust did not lead to action on radicalisation.
Medact’s False Positive report, which was published on July 2 after 18 months of research, analysed Freedom of Information data from 2017 to 2019 supplied by more than 40 NHS trusts around the country.
It investigates the impact of Prevent, a strand of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy implemented in 2006 which requires public servants to identify people at risk of extremist radicalisation.
The report found the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust was one of the top three NHS trust referrers in the country at 98 referrals, but that 98pc of those reports were ‘false positives’.
This occurs when the referral does not pass the ‘three M test’ (misguided, malicious or misinformed), and leads to no further action on radicalisation.
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Author of the report Dr Hilary Aked said false positive referrals erode trust in authority and have a lasting impact on potentially vulnerable people.
“There is harm being done in false positives to people who are young and from minority groups, accused of being at risk of becoming a quote ‘terrorist’,” Dr Aked told this newspaper.
“People who are referred are rarely okay about that - they lose trust in health and other authorities.”
Describing the system as also “unfair” on NHS workers, Dr Aked said: “We are not interested in blaming health workers, we all share unconscious biases in our society, the issue is Prevent weaponises these biases by putting pressure on health workers to identify pre-terrorists.”
The report also found Muslims are reported by the NHS eight times more often than non-Muslims, and Asian people four times more than non-Asian people, around the country.
Those with mental health conditions are also disproportionately represented.
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Dr Suman Fernando, a retired Islington-based psychiatrist who worked at Chase Farm Hospital for more than two decades, told the Gazette: “There is no objective measure of radicalisation, there is no way to determine that somebody is being radicalised or not.
“It becomes racist. People think they are doing it for one reason but the unconscious criteria they use is one of race. It is in keeping with the institutional racism that is in all of us if you have no other means of determining something.”
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Medact outlines a number of recommendations going forward, such as repealing Prevent in healthcare, taking steps to rebuild trust and publish data on the religion and ethnicity of those historically referred to increase transparency.
President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr Adrian James said: “I am very concerned about the impact of Prevent on patients with mental illness, BAME patients, confidentiality and patients’ trust in health professionals.
“The lack of evidence, research and transparency is a real problem so we welcome this report which sheds valuable light on these important issues.”
The report says Prevent costs at least £40 million a year, but with “no solid evidence base that it reduces terrorism risk”.
A spokesperson from the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust said: “Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust is a key partner in the local response to the government’s Prevent safeguarding programme.
“We see it as vitally important to prevent vulnerable people being exploited and drawn into terrorism and we fully support the programme.”
They said staff training meets national standards and a high training uptake has led to “very strong awareness” of the issues involved.
“As a trust, we do not see any Prevent referral as ‘false positive’ and all cases referred receive appropriate action, depending on individual circumstances. We follow national guidelines when referring cases and adhere to the latest Prevent guidance.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Healthcare practitioners recognise Prevent as part of their safeguarding duties and with over 300,000 patient contacts every day, the NHS has an important role to play in preventing vulnerable people being drawn into terrorism.
“A key part of Prevent is to enable frontline staff to recognise and safeguard individuals at risk from all types of radicalisation, referring them to pathways for appropriate support.”
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