Prevent Watch

False Positives: the Prevent counter-extremism policy in healthcare

Of key interest to researchers into the harms of counter-extremism and its self-reinforcement through statistics, this report reveals how ‘false positives’ are embedded in the pre-crime theories that underlie counter-extremism policies such as the UK’s Prevent strategy, posing acute ethical concerns where they are implement in healthcare. This report by MedAct examines the implementation and impacts of the Prevent duty in the NHS, looking at the interaction between the duty and other professional duties across different NHS settings. Released in June 2020, this report also provided the foundation for a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur in November 2020. It concludes that:
  • there is racial and religious disproportionality in who is reported to Prevent;
  • people with mental health conditions are more likely to be reported;
  • there are acute ethical concerns with Vulnerability Support Hubs;
  • Prevent referrals can damage patient health, by impacting therapeutic relationships, interrupting care, and even triggering mental health problems.
The report also shows how Prevent, in multiple direct and indirect ways is harmful, and that “safeguarding” in relation to Prevent is a misnomer. There is also strong evidence that Prevent is damaging presumption of patient consent and confidential medical care, and trust in the medical profession. To this end, it should be read alongside the report by Warwick University entitled Counter-Terrorism in the Health Sector (2017), and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Statement on Prevent (2016). This MedAct report makes several recommendations, among which are that the government should repeal the Prevent policy in healthcare in light of the lack of evidence of efficacy and documented evidence of harm, and that it should refocus counter-terrorism efforts on combating violence, instead of using arbitrary concepts like “extremism”. It also recommends that “healthcare and safeguarding should be ring-fenced from counter-terrorism”. The full report is available HERE.

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