Wednesday June 2, 2004
A patient who physically and verbally abused healthcare staff 47 times in the past five months today became the first person to be banned from entering or contacting all NHS facilities and private clinics in England and Wales.
Norman Hutchins, 53, from York, was made the subject of an antisocial behaviour order (Asbo) that prohibits him from accessing any NHS premises or private medical services without a lawful excuse or written permission. The interim order lasts for four weeks.
NHS security staff sought the ban after Hutchins was found with a knife in a hospital casualty department.
York magistrates' court heard that Hutchins' bizarre behaviour became progressively worse over the past five months, and on 47 different occasions he harassed NHS staff, either by phone or attending premises.
Hutchins, of Rowntree Avenue, York, was said to have a fetish for surgical masks and would contact NHS organisations to get them. He would tell staff he needed them for amateur dramatics or that he was doing a fun run in fancy dress.
Mr Justin Crossley, prosecuting on behalf of York city council, said Hutchins' antisocial behaviour went back many years.
He said: "This defendant has over the preceding 15 to 16 years been involved in a number of offences in which he has obtained dishonestly by way of deception surgical garments.
"The lion's share of these acts involve making inquiries, direct inquiries to NHS establishments. His modus operandi is for him to contact establishments which use surgical masks, be they dental surgeries or GP practices' surgeries."
Mr Crossley told the court about specific incidents when Hutchins had threatened or disturbed NHS staff.
He said that on January 27 Hutchins entered a dental surgery in Selby requesting medical masks. After obtaining a mask, he asked a member of staff to put it on and then take it off.
Mr Crossley added: "The allegation on the part of the council is that his behaviour thereafter became inappropriate and sexualised. He requested a member of staff to tie it and he was seen to have an erection."
Two days later Hutchins is alleged to have entered the accident and emergency department at York district hospital where he became verbally abusive to members of staff and produced a knife.
Hutchins' solicitor, Harry Bayman, told the court that not all the allegations had been proved and added that his client denied some specific points. But he said Hutchins would agree to the interim Asbo.
But the solicitor added: "The problem with this order is this gentleman, as with anyone else, may suffer health problems in the future and may require medical treatment. In any layman's opinion, he is not a well man and is almost bound to need medical treatment in the near future." The case will be heard once again at York magistrates' court on June 30. In the meantime, Hutchins will appear at the city's crown court in relation to offences of dishonesty.
The order prohibits Hutchins from entering or contacting by any means any NHS facility, primary care trust or private medical establishment in England and Wales, including hospitals, and dental and GP surgeries.
Jim Gee, chief executive of the NHS security management service (SMS), welcomed the imposition of the Asbo. He said: "More than 30 NHS organisations have tried to respond locally to this problem by obtaining civil injunctions concerning their own premises, however, the defendant has simply moved on to another part of the NHS. In cases like this one, the NHS needs a national response if we are to properly protect staff from violence and abuse."