‘Political correctness’ as Harrogate hospital trains volunteers in ‘diversity awareness’

David Simister
David Simister
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A MOVE to force volunteers at a Yorkshire hospital to undertake a range of training - including in equality and diversity awareness - was said today to be driven by “political correctness and ambulance-chasing lawyers”.

David Simister, a former chairman of Harrogate Hospital Radio, said the move was “barmy” and warned it might lead to valued volunteers who staff tea bars, push trollies and greet patients leaving the NHS.

Mr Simister said 300 volunteers at the hospital had been sent a letter saying a range of training had to be completed within 12 months of joining the trust.

The letter said: “Due to updated requirements placed on the trust by the NHS Litigation Authority (the Health Service’s insurer), we are now asking all volunteers to complete a programme of basic training to help ensure the safety of our volunteers, other staff and patients.

“This training is necessary in order for you to continue volunteering activities for the trust, so we would greatly appreciate it if you could arrange to do this as soon as possible.”

The list of nine areas of necessary training includes: health and safety; data protection and confidentiality; equality and diversity awareness; and manual handling (practical and theory).

Mr Simister said: “We are living in a world of political correctness and ambulance-chasing lawyers, which is driving this policy forward.

“Volunteers already give up a lot of their time to provide much-needed but always unpaid support to the NHS. This training will demand a lot more of their time.”

Mr Simister added: “I run a small business and can ill afford to take time off to attend nine training sessions, particularly when the majority are totally pointless to what I do. The heaviest item I lift is a CD out of its case. For others, it’s cups of teas and newspapers.”

Mr Simister said he blamed the NHS Litigation Authority.

“I’ve spoken with a number of other volunteers and the general consensus is that the NHS Litigation Authority can stick it,” he said.

“This Government promised us a bonfire of the quangos and a shredding of red tape. Now it needs to put its money where its mouth is. If it doesn’t, its army of volunteers will disappear.”

In a statement, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust’s volunteers play a vital part in the day-to-day running of the hospital and their role has such a valuable impact on the patient experience.

“We have over 300 volunteers and since July to date they have dedicated over 1,800 hours to the trust.

“We value each and every one of our volunteers and we will work with them to minimise the time required for training.”

A spokeswoman for the NHS Litigation Authority stressed its role was to give general guidance to health trusts on risk management training.

She said it was up to each organisation to decide what training was relevant and necessary for its individual staff members.

The authority has not issued specific guidance on the training of volunteers.