RACIALLY charged harassment of NHS staff is fuelled partly by a rise in hate crime surrounding Brexit, a council leader has claimed.

Colchester Council leader Mark Cory called on health bosses to do more to support staff at a meeting of the governing body of North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.

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Speaking in his capacity as a lay member, Mr Cory asked the governors to take steps to support staff and educate patients.

He said: “We are seeing an increase in cases of harassment of staff from patients, at times which is racially charged.

“I just wonder what we are doing to support staff and also to educate patients.

“I think especially when we’re talking about Brexit there is a significant rise in hate crimes it is felt across the community.

“It is seen within the service, it is seen when patients refuse certain treatments from certain individuals. It is abhorrent but it does happen and I just wanted to raise the fact.

“What do we do to support staff and how do we work as an organisation in a wider sense to try and work on that?”

Mr Cory’s concerns were echoed by Colchester Hospital boss Nick Hulme, who described the abuse as “the worst he has heard in his 40 year career in the NHS”.

He said: “We should be intolerant as a society of people who make racist and homophobic remarks in any setting but particularly those that are made in a health care setting.

“All staff have the right not to be abused when they come to work.

“The comments that I’ve heard in Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been the worst I’ve heard in my 40 year career in the NHS.”

A 2018 Home Office report said 94,098 hate crime offences were recorded by the police in England and Wales in 2017/18 - an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year.

Responding to Mr Cory at the meeting, director of nursing Lisa Llewelyn conceded “a lot more work needed to be done” to address the problem within the NHS”.

She said: “We have a talent pipeline where we encourage people from a minority group or ethnic background to become senior nurses.

“Nevertheless you are absolutely right it is about reinforcing to our staff the importance of the fact everyone is equal.”