Nurses and other NHS staff can play a key role in tackling the hidden problem of modern slavery in the UK, but many do not realise it exists, according to one of England’s most senior nurses.
Hilary Garratt, director of nursing at NHS England and deputy chief nursing officer for England, said there was a need to raise awareness of the issue and take action across the health service.
“The NHS has a significant role to play in combating modern slavery”
“Slavery is all around us but we simply don’t recognise the signs,” she wrote in a blog to co-incide with Anti-Slavery Day in October.
“It is in our hands and yet we can be indecisive about whether or not to get involved,” she said.
Her comments follow the launch of a video aimed at helping NHS staff understand modern slavery and spot potential victims.
In her blog, Ms Garratt highlighted the fact that there are an estimated 13,000 modern slaves in the UK, who may be in domestic service or working in factories, food outlets and farming.
“The NHS has a significant role to play in combating modern slavery and supporting victims,” she wrote.
Nurses encouraged to help ‘combat modern slavery’
“But to do this, we need to ensure that staff understand modern slavery exists and we need to ensure staff are confident and able to both recognise the signs and symptoms of both victims and perpetrators and know what to do,” she added.
The video urges NHS staff to “keep your eyes open during your day-to-day routine and listen to your professional curiosity”.
It is part of the NHS England anti-slavery programme, which also includes work with other organisations to develop training for health and social care workers.
In addition, NHS England is running an awareness-raising campaign on Twitter and collaborating with the Royal College of Nursing on a workshop for professionals later this month.