A U.K. nurse is taking his employer to court after he claims he was assaulted and verbally abused by a patient known to be a raving racist.
Colleridge Bessong, a mental health nurse, is suing Pennine Care NHS Trust in Manchester, England for what he calls the trust’s failure to protect him from the violent attack, according to The Guardian. Bessong said the assault left him so badly injured he had to be hospitalized.
Describing the April 2017 incident, he said the patient punched him eight times before threatening to stab him with a pen, saying, “you f—–g Black, I’m going to stab you now!”
Bessong said memories of the attack haunt him to this day.
“I was attacked by a patient at work and subjected to a barrage of racial abuse for no other reason than the colour of my skin,” he told The Guardian in a recent interview.
“What made matters worse was that the patient was well-known for having a history of racist behaviour towards staff where I work,” Bessong said, “yet my employer [and] a manager saw no reason to take any action to deal with the risk nor did they warn me about the situation I was walking into when I commenced my nightshift.”
In his complaint, the nurse argues the trust was well aware of patient’s racist views. The night before the assault, the patient reportedly asked “why’s it all Black people working in the ward?” Bessong, who is African, claims the man also expressed “hatred” for him during a meeting.
The nurse is now locked in a legal with his employer, accusing the trust of breaching its duty to him by failing to warn him about the potential threat posed by a patient with a history of racist behavior.
“I know my job involves a certain amount of risk,” he told The Guardian. “But surely my employer should’ve taken appropriate steps to protect me and should have at least warned me of the threat that the patient posed to me and be held accountable for failing to do so.”
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which is supporting Bessong’s effort, filed suit against Pennine Care, arguing Bessong had suffered direct and indirect race discrimination, as well as harassment. An employment tribunal heard the case in July 2018 and agreed the nurse had suffered indirect discrimination. However, it rejected the group’s other claims.
The RCN now plans to appeal the case, which could produce a landmark judgment on the issue of employers’ responsibility to protect employees, according to the outlet.
Bessong’s complaint comes amid mounting reports from National Health Service (NHS) workers, including nurses and emergency responders, who say they’ve experienced verbal harassment and assault on the job. A recent survey of NHS staff revealed that one in seven employees reported being attacked by a patient, relative or member of the public.
Clare Parker, Pennine Care’s director of nursing, Bessong’s claims in a statement.
“We do not tolerate racism in any form and will always support staff if they experience abuse,” she said, adding that the facility is “constantly striving to improve this by listening to feedback from staff via our black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) network and many other channels.”