PERSISTENT troublemakers could be banned from city hospitals after NHS staff were left needing counselling as a result of serial complainers.
NHS Lothian is drawing up a new policy for dealing with relatives of patients who make multiple unsubstantiated complaints, following two recent “major incidents” which had a devastating impact on workers.
Health bosses believe the problem has become so severe that they are consulting NHS Scotland’s central legal office about the possibility of obtaining bans against those whose complaints make life a misery for health workers.
Unions backed the tough stance, saying they would welcome the banning of individuals in “extreme circumstances”.
Unison Lothian organiser David Forbes said: “I know there are people who are making staff’s lives a living hell. They’ve been making things up, saying staff haven’t been doing their jobs right or were doing patients in.
“It really demoralises staff and there’s the sheer amount of time spent on it. It’s to the detriment of all patients.”
It is understood that the two major incidents related to families of patients, rather than patients themselves.
Mr Forbes added: “It’s of course not something that would be used lightly – there’s times when people are well within their rights to raise complaints and don’t think this is a way to silence the public.
“It’s very, very few occasions but we would welcome the ability to do this [impose bans] in extreme circumstances.”
The situation has become so bad that NHS Lothian’s occupational health department looking at providing counselling to affected employees.
Some NHS Lothian staff members are believed to have been unable to work due to stress or voluntarily taken demotions to avoid dealing with a tiny number of individuals.
The health board’s HR director, Alan Boyter, told the NHS Lothian staff governance committee that lawyers would be consulted about the possibility of obtaining interdicts against individuals.
While it could mean troublemakers are banned from NHS Lothian facilities, there is no chance of anybody being refused treatment if they need it.
Royal College of Nursing Scotland Associate Director Norman Provan said: “Staff must be allowed to carry out their duties without being intimidated. The safety and welfare of patients and staff is paramount.”
Stuart Wilson, NHS Lothian’s director of communications and public affairs, said: “We understand that the matter was raised in relation to the relatives of patients and the impact that their persistent, hostile behaviour can have on staff.
“We have promised to consider developing a policy which will afford our staff protection and allow them to focus solely on the needs of the patients.
“These plans are at an extremely early stage and nothing has been discussed about what options are available to us.”