Sections 119-120 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 came into force on 30 November 2009. Section 119 creates a new criminal offence of causing a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises. Section 120 provides powers for police constables or authorised NHS staff to remove a person suspected of committing the offence. These additional powers are intended to help make it easier for NHS trusts to deal with problem individuals without the need to involve police, allowing them to use reasonable force if necessary.
The Department of Health has published guidance to help trusts understand the new powers that can be found here.
Safeguards are built into the regime in that a person cannot be removed if they are believed to require medical advice, treatment or care, or if it is believed that removal would endanger their physical or mental health. The powers are also only available in respect of “NHS premises” which will largely limit the power to secondary care facilities and will not include GP practices, dental surgeries, pharmacies or hospices unless they are located within hospital grounds.
Staff exercising the duties must be properly trained and authorised in writing by a person at board level. Records should be kept, not only of the authorisation but the use of the power should be properly documented and monitored.
Trusts should ensure that the new powers are integrated into their overall strategy for dealing with violence and aggression and their existing duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.