The Royal College of Nursing says it “deplores” violence against health professionals and will act directly to broach the issue with governments around the world.
The RCN warned it believed human rights agreements and legislation were of “increasing importance” to people needing nursing care and to nursing staff, and were “essential tools” in helping to achieve better outcomes for them.
The college has published a new position paper on human rights and nursing, which was launched today at RCN Congress in Harrogate. It builds on an existing position statement developed last year by the International Council of Nurses.
It follows the imprisonment of a group of health professionals in Bahrain last year after they treated anti government protesters. The nurses and doctors were allegedly tortured after their arrest in February and then faced a 20 minute military trial before being handed sentences of between five and 15 years.
The statement said: “Primarily nurses owe a duty of care to their patients and are accountable for their actions in protecting patients’ human rights.
“However, nurses’ own fundamental human rights are also of significant importance. Nurses should also be able to carry out their professional duties in a safe working environment and without violence or intimidation.”
The RCN said its position was “founded on its fundamental support” for 10 key pieces of legislation, including the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK’s 1998 Human Rights Act.
In the position statement, the college said it “deplores the targeting of health professionals and their families, and subjecting them to imprisonment, torture, unfair trial or killing, when they are seeking to carry out their professional duties”.
It adds: “The RCN, acting directly and in collaboration with others, will call on national and international organisations and governments to meet their international human rights obligations and to hold to account those who do not.”