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14 March 2022 | Comment | Article by Danielle Vincent

Abuse of trust: Sexual assaults by NHS healthcare professionals

Last week two articles have hit the media regarding NHS staff and sexual assaults.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have discussed abuse in the medical sector, specifically NHS workers and this is unlikely to be the last.

In the last year we have previously discussed on our HJ Talks About Abuse podcast:

  • GP Manish Shah was convicted of committing 90 assaults against 24 female patients whom he persuaded to undergo unnecessary intimate examinations for his own gratification
  • Porter Paul Farrell from Great Ormond Street who was accused of 84 sex offences
  • Cambridge paramedic Andrew Wheeler was found guilty of rape of two women and sexual assault of a minor. 18 offences were committed between 2002 and 2018.
  • NHS Gynaecologist Dr Jomo Mathurine was struck off after secretly filming himself having sex with unsuspecting women
  • David Fuller who was a hospital morgue worker who sexually abused at least 102 corpses

Paul Grayson, a Sheffield nurse has this week pleaded guilty to a further number of sexual offences, having previously pleaded guilty to 17 offences. This included sexual assault, voyeurism and taking indecent images. Many of the offences took place at the Day Care Theatre Unit at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital between 2017 and 2020. He will be sentenced on May 9th at Sheffield Crown Court.

Dr Raid Haris was this week handed a 9 month suspension. He was found to have examined genitals and breasts without gloves of two women, having abused his professional position. The investigation has taken 5 years to come to this decision.

The assaults took place in two locations, Morecambe and the Minor Injuries Unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Haris performed a genital examination on one patient after she complained of neck pain following a fall. He abused his position of trust under the premise of a necessary examination. Haris has avoided permanent strike off because it was found the “risk of reputation is low” and because he was “experiencing work related stress” at the time. This seems a poor ‘reason’ for the conduct and it is concerning that in such a short period he will return to his position of trust he so easily abused. The two women who bravely disclosed their abuse have spent 5 years involved in the GMC investigation which has no doubt caused great distress to their lives.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch with our team of specialist abuse solicitors.

The decision remained “that the public interest would be served by limiting Dr Haris’ suspension, albeit to a small extent. Accordingly, it concluded that a suspension for a period of 9 months was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case and marked the seriousness with which the Tribunal viewed Dr Haris’ misconduct.” It is of concern what changes will be made to safeguard future patients.

We need to continue to discuss the important issue of consent in every aspect of our lives. Consent is something that is often discussed in a wider sense with varying opinions on what valid consent is, however, this should never be unclear or in doubt in any circumstances.

In practicalities, would you question a medical professional if they informed you they needed to examine you or instructed you to remove your clothing? If a professional touched you in an intimate area would you question the validity/intentions of such actions? The likelihood is, we are brought up to trust authority from a young age that our best interests are being looked after. Therefore, when it comes to medical settings, we are placing our trust in those in a position of authority with often much more knowledge than ourselves of our complaint we have sought assistance on. I myself, know in likelihood I probably would not question it despite working as a sexual abuse solicitor.

Consent must clearly be sought for any examination, especially of an intimate nature. That examination should be explained to the individual what exactly is to take place. Chaperones should be made available.

Sadly, a minority of those in such professional field, abuse this trust under the cloak of a medical authoritative position, at times when we are feeling most vulnerable because of the reasons set out above.

What makes an abuse of position even more upsetting is the self-doubt an individual may feel following from this. Often confusion of what has happened and a sense of trying to justify it as normal because the expert “would know what they were doing” and what has taken place was necessary. This means that assaults go unreported, and this is what such abuser will depend upon.

It is vitally important that you feel comfortable in consultations or medical situations, that the medical staff member takes the time to explain a procedure/examination to you and that you are consenting to the set out procedure. You should never feel that you cannot ask questions or want clarification.

If something has taken place, which was not as expected or leaves you feeling upset, violated or just confused, you should never feel in doubt to raise this with a senior person in the organisation. Anyone who has concerns regarding a health care professional can report this to the manager on site, the General Medical Council and police. All NHS organisations will have a formal complaints procedure which should be readily available to all patients on request.

If an NHS employee has committed abuse, it is possible to make a civil claim against the NHS Trust for who the employee works, under the term ‘vicarious liability’ if it can be established that the abuse occurred during the course of employment or in a relationship akin to employment.

Author bio

Danielle Vincent

Senior Associate

Danielle is a Senior Associate in the Abuse Specialist Personal Injury Department. She specialises in representing survivors of abuse and has experience in bringing claims against a number of institutions as well as individual abusers.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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