Published: 27/06/2002, Volume II2, No. 5811 Page 10

New guidelines to give health boards in Scotland the 'ultimate sanction' of denying treatment to violent patients will be used only as 'a last resort', the Scottish NHS Confederation said this week.

Scottish health minister Malcolm Chisholm announced the move as part of a Health at Work guideline which NHS bodies will be expected to implement.

The guidelines, drawn up by the Partnership Information Network, which includes NHS professional groups, unions and health department representatives, covers all aspects of health at work, including stress.

But the proposals on violent patients drew the most reaction.

Mr Chisholm said: 'No-one should be made ill by the work they do, nor should they live in fear of attack. Violence and aggression cannot and will not be tolerated, least of all within the NHS. That is why, as part of the new Health at Work guideline, NHS boards will be given an 'ultimate sanction', enabling them to withhold treatment from violent patients.'

He said the step would only be used in exceptional circumstances, after careful evaluation and in strict accordance with the guidance.

Director of the Scottish NHS Confederation Hilary Robertson backed the move. She said: 'NHS staff deserve to be able to carry out their duties safe from physical or verbal abuse. This will be a measure of last resort and clinical staff will ensure that all other appropriate measures to resolve violent behaviour are exhausted before treatment is withheld.

'I have no doubt that the vast majority of patients who treat NHS staff with respect will also welcome this measure.'

PIN chair Jonathon Best said: 'This guideline continues progress to ensure staff governance is a major part of any NHS board local health plan. The guidelines are produced by the service and consulted on within the service, making them unique in terms of policy formulation through staff involvement.'