In Britain, COVID-19 Corona virus, Issues

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Concerning reports have emerged of nurses facing verbal and physical abuse by the public including being spat at and labelled “disease spreaders” amid coronavirus fears.

By Rebecca Gilroy

Published on Nursing Times, Mar 20, 2020
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Leaders of the profession have this week spoken out against the harassment and urged people to “be kind” to frontline professionals at this time of international crisis.

This is a time when everyone should come together, it shouldn’t be an excuse to create more segregation”
Reizel Quiachon

Susan Masters, director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, revealed on social media that community nurses were being “heckled” by members of the public worried about Covid-19.

She wrote on Twitter: “I am speaking up for nurses and nursing in every possible setting.

“Today I hear from community nurses that they are being heckled at and verbally abused in the street and called ‘disease spreaders’.

“This is abhorrent behaviour, it must stop.”

Ms Masters also called on nurses across sectors to raise awareness of this issue and call out “vile behaviour”.

She added: “Nurses are running towards the fire to provide the care the communities need.”

Responding to the reports, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, Dr Crystal Oldman, said:

Nurses who work in the community are utilising all the necessary precautions including, as they always do and are trained to do, measures to prevent any cross infection and maintain the health and wellbeing of their patients.”

Meanwhile, England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May has also raised concerns about the issue.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Ms May said: “I’ve seen all over Twitter some of our nurses and midwives and care staff being spat at and being abused by member of the public.

“Please be very kind to your nurses and midwives because you may need them very soon.”

The intervention from nursing leaders follow reports across the UK of verbal and physical abuse against people presumed to be spreading the virus.

Many incidences have been racial, including one report from an NHS nurse in Brighton who was harrased and assaulted on her way to work.

Reizel Quiachon posted a video on social media describing the incident where a couple physically and verbally abused her.

Please be very kind to your nurses and midwives because you may need them very soon”
Ruth May

Ms Quiachon said: “A man elbowed my rib, intentionally pushing me to the side, the female partner then shouted racial abuse.

“Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are literally risking their lives on the frontline with limited resources and yet some people feel the need to impose more hatred and fear.

“So I appreciate there’s a lot of hate going around at the moment due to coronavirus but virus is not an excuse to be racist or to discriminate against anyone. It’s not.

You know, the coronavirus will go away, it will go away but discrimination will have its permanent impact.

This is a time when everyone should come together, it shouldn’t be an excuse to create more segregation.”

Ms Quiachon’s post has been shared more than 16,000 times on Facebook with thousands of people commenting with messages of support.

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