NHS staff have been warned to hide their IDs after a spate of targeted muggings by thugs looking to use the badges for free food and drink.
The muggers are looking to profit off the free food and drink being offered to NHS workers by various outlets during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, Burger King and Greggs are offering free drinks, and Pizza Hut is giving NHS workers 50% off all takeaway orders – a number of other chains are also participating.
Last week, two NHS staff members, thought to be doctors, were mugged outside Lewisham hospital, with the men attempting to steal their lanyards off their necks. “Something like this is appalling,” one of their colleagues said. “It’s beyond the pale and so shocking.”
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust proceeded to warn their staff in a briefing on Monday to ensure their lanyards are covered up when entering or leaving the hospital. One NHS official described the situation as “absolutely grim”:
ID badges are being stolen in a few places as staff come out of their trust. As soon as staff are coming off-site they are waiting for them and stealing them, to get the free food and also so they can go shopping during the protected early morning shopping hour that some supermarkets have put in place for NHS staff. It’s mainly nurses who have been targeted. They’re the ones who often walk out of the main entrance of a hospital with their lanyards on.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer of NHS England, said the reports of the muggings were “really concerning”:
Our NHS staff are pulling out all the stops in the face of an unprecedented global health threat, so these reports are really concerning. We have seen some extraordinary acts of generosity from businesses and the public and this will not be overshadowed by the actions of an idiotic few, but I would urge everyone to show NHS staff the gratitude they deserve and help them to do what they do best.
A number of incidents had also occurred at the University College Hospital London, who have also subsequently warned their staff to take care. “We are doing what we can to keep you safe,” they said. “Please raise your vigilance and do not have your mobile phone or NHS lanyards/ID visible outside our hospitals. Please remember to report any incidents to security at UCLH too.”