Causing a nuisance or disturbance at an NHS hospital and refusing to leave is now a criminal offence for anyone not seeking medical advice, treatment or care.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 creates a new power for authorised NHS staff to remove a person suspected of committing this offence.

It includes any form of low-level anti-social behaviour such as foul language and verbal abuse, intimidating gestures and excessive noise in waiting areas or wards.

The NHS Security Management Service is to provide training for staff authorised to remove people, and will make clear the legal rights of all concerned.

The measures will be a last resort and not a substitute for established verbal conflict resolution, and will ensure that a person is not put at risk by being removed.

Martin Wiles, of the NHS Security Management Service, said: “These new provisions reinforce the range of measures already in place to protect NHS staff.

“The legislation will help prevent low-level disruptive behaviour from escalating to violence against staff by focusing on the minority of people who cause a nuisance in hospital premises.”