A private hospital has joined the fight against modern day slavery and human trafficking by training staff in how to spot potential victims.
All 145 staff and 100 consultants at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital in Blackpool are receiving training in what how to look out for potential victims of trafficking, in a bid to tackle the exploitation of vulnerable people.
It comes after a 36% rise in the number of potential trafficking and modern slavery victims reported to authorities across the UK in a year.
National Crime Agency figures show last year, 6,993 potential victims were referred into the government system, up from 5,142 in 2017 and 3,804 in 2016.
Modern slavery is a crime encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking.
Mike Sarson, Director of Clinical Services at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital said the goal is to raise awareness across the hospital and support staff to raise the alarm if they are concerned about someone.
He said: “Modern Slavery is more common than you expect and we keep hearing about more and more cases nationally, so it important for us to be on the alert.
“We have a diverse population in this area, and this is something that affects people from all over the world.
“Many of us remember the horrendous Morecambe Bay cockling picking tragedy fifteen years ago, when at least 21 Chinese illegal immigrant labourers were drowned by an incoming tide just up the coast.
“It is important that our staff all receive this training, to increase awareness of the prevalence of modern slavery, so people’s eyes are open to it, and to give them to knowledge about how to spot a potential victim, and then what to do if they need to raise a concern.”
The training includes frontline staff looking out for the welfare of patients, the hospital administration and finance team when they are dealing with patients and relatives over the phone or in person, and procurement staff dealing with suppliers.
It is being delivered as part of the hospital’s overall safeguarding policy and includes group workshops for senior staff, matrons and managers, and e-learning modules which are also being offered to medics.
Mike said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are appalling and callous crimes and we want to do everything we can to support the authorities to catch and prosecute those responsible.
“Our staff are often on the frontline delivering patient care and are most likely to come across victims, as they witness people’s behaviour, which the training tells us can be an indicator that something is wrong.
“It is important that if we do spot any signs that someone might have been trafficked then we raise the alarm.
“The training takes staff through different scenarios, with examples of modern slavery case studies, and what to do if they witness anything unusual.
“Some of the signs could be if they are with a partner who demonstrates controlling behaviour, or if they are reluctant to interact, if they don’t carry their own personal ID, if they are not maintaining eye contact, not answering simple questions or seem uncomfortable.
“In our patient admin team, they will notice if someone doesn’t have access to their own funds, or if someone else is doing all the communicating for them.
“As a business we have a zero-tolerance policy on modern slavery, and we are committed to dealing with any concerns raised in an open and honest manner.
“This means we have a policy to empower and protect staff who raise any concerns about someone’s safety, and they know we will support them to escalate any potential cases via their head of department, to the local safeguarding team.
“This is a multidisciplinary team including police and social workers and under the Modern Slavery Act they can carry out an investigation through the proper channels.”
Mr Sarson said the hospital had not seen any cases yet, and the majority of suppliers used by the hospital are from countries not deemed to be at high risk of modern slavery.
However the support and systems are in place should a case arise and staff will continue to receive training to ensure they remain aware.
Tracy Jackson, Director at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital added: “As a Spire hospital we have a focus on quality as part of the commitment we make to our patients.
“More broadly, our values embody a commitment to act ethically and with integrity in all our relationships.
“Whilst the vast majority of our suppliers originate from countries not deemed high risk for modern slavery, we take this issue extremely seriously.
“As such, we have a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery.
“Our cross-department ‘working group’ operates to develop and oversee the implementation of a plan to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking from touching our business and supply chains.
“As a result, we expect the same standards from all our contractors, suppliers and other business partners.
“As a national, multi-site organisation, Spire Healthcare buys a wide range of goods and services, from surgical equipment and medicines, through to corporate clothing and waste disposal. Some of these products and services are used in the provision of healthcare to patients such as new knee or hip joints., others will be used within our own business such as office supplies.
“In order to ensure other organisations comply with our own standards and values, Spire Healthcare nationally has put in place a number of measures to assess and manage supply chain risk.
“Where a key supplier does not satisfy us of their position on modern slavery, we will work with them to raise standards in this area. If there is a lack of engagement or sufficient assurances, we will review the continued use of that supplier with a view to changing to a supplier which is able to meet our standards on modern slavery.”