Doctors' responsibilities with anti-radicalisation strategy

Explaining the doctors' role in the Prevent training programme to counter terrorism and how it affects confidentiality and consent.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 25 October 2021
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Refusing to assist in the Prevent training programme

Controversy around the programme may lead to doctors refusing to participate in Prevent training programmes.

Legal advice states doctors who refuse to participate in any Prevent training could be penalised or sanctioned with anything up to disciplinary proceedings.

NHS trusts and other health authorities are entitled assistance of their employees in complying with the obligations under the Prevent duty.

The BMA’s representative body passed a motion at ARM 2018 stating that it believes the Prevent programme leads to racial profiling and for the BMA to support doctors who refuse to take part.

In light of the legal advice we cannot recommend that any members refuse to participate. Any failure or repeated failure to provide assistance risks employees being threatened with disciplinary action.


Guidance for GPs

There is no specific duty for GP practices to undertake Prevent training.

However, Prevent comes under safeguarding. The position is different for services commissioned under the NHS standard contract.

If a practice chooses to meet its safeguarding obligations by undertaking training as set out in the intercollegiate guidance, then it is possible that this will already include/cover Prevent training.


Prevent duty

Health authorities should, in their general duties, have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ and refer as appropriate.

As the legislation makes clear, the Prevent duty exists in a ‘pre-criminal space’. Its purpose is not to identify those who already present a terrorist threat. It is best understood as part of safeguarding.


Reporting concerns

If you identify individuals who may be at risk of being drawn into terrorism, you should ordinarily refer them to the relevant Prevent lead. Information must be disclosed in accordance with the law and professional duties.

Confidential patient information can ordinarily be disclosed:

  • where it is shared within the healthcare team for the purposes of providing care and treatment to the patient – consent is understood to be implied
  • where the patient explicitly consents to the disclosure
  • in the best interests of an adult who lacks the capacity to consent to the disclosure
  • where the law requires disclosure
  • where there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

Children and young people are owed the same duty of confidentiality as other people. 

Public interest

Disclosure is justified in the public interest where it is necessary to prevent:

  • a serious and imminent threat to public health
  • national security
  • the life of the individual or a third party
  • a serious crime.

This would also include those planning or carrying out terrorist activities or those who have carried them out in the past.


The BMA's view

We recognise that doctors may have a role in safeguarding vulnerable adults and young people who may be at risk of radicalisation.

In its current form we believe that the Prevent programme leads to racial profiling.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and others indicate that there is no causal link between the Prevent programme and any change in the level of terrorism or extremism in the UK. 

The programme lacks a convincing evidence base and we have called on the Government to provide evidence of its effectiveness.

We will continue to lobby against the programme on its discriminatory aspects. We have raised concerns in the past, to the Government’s anti-terrorism czar, about the role of doctors under Prevent, but we want to know more about the problems with the current training programme.

If you have evidence of discriminatory aspects of the Prevent training you have received, please get in touch with us so that we can feed these examples into our policy work.