Community staff have been urged by a senior nurse to help tackle the ongoing threat from terrorism in their everyday work by identifying people at risk of being drawn into extremist groups.
Radicalisation is a safeguarding issue and should be treated as such by frontline nurses, NHS England’s deputy safeguarding lead Susan Warburton told heath visitors and school nurses.
“[Preventing radicalisation] is a safeguarding issue despite the political rhetoric that you hear”
Speaking at the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association annual conference last week, she warned of the high-level threat to the UK, in particular from the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
She described the “polished operation” being run by IS, and of its increasing ability to recruit people internationally through methods such as social media – noting the estimated 46,000 Twitter accounts the group uses and its creation of more than 50 videos a week.
Ms Warburton called on nurses to help identify people at risk of becoming radicalised as part of the government’s “Prevent” strategy to stop home-grown terrorism from developing.
The 2011 plan was later strengthened by a new law – the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – that requires NHS organisations in England, Scotland and Wales to put measures in place to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
“I would say keep your eyes and ears open and use your professional curiosity”
She told the audience that since the legislation had been introduced there had been more efforts raise awareness among NHS staff, to provide professionals with the skills to identity vulnerable people, as well as more support for individuals deemed at risk of radicalisation.
She referred to a recent case in which a person was supported to move away from extreme ideology following a home visit from a district nurse who had noticed IS regalia when she was there to dress a wound.
Ms Warburton also highlighted that additional information resources were being developed for healthcare professionals to help them integrate unaccompanied children coming to the UK from Syria, as part of the government’s resettlement programme.
“We can embed Prevent into our safeguarding practice – it is a safeguarding issue despite the political rhetoric that you hear,” said Ms Warburton.
“We do get the best responses from local information and that’s from practitioners like yourselves because you are the people that are seeing and working in these communities trying to support them,” she told the audience.
“It is not easy to identify, I accept that. But I would say keep your eyes and ears open and use that professional curiosity we talk about,” she added.