Nurses 'should be screened for mental illness'

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NURSES should undergo systematic screening for mental and physical illnesses to minimise the risk of attacks on patients, leaders of the profession said yesterday in the wake of the Beverly Allitt murders.

The Royal College of Nursing called for national standards for health screening of nurses before they are offered jobs or training places. It also urged the Government to ensure that all nurses have access to counselling and occupational health services so that psychological problems may be picked up early. But the availability of such services, and screening, is patchy at present.

Christine Hancock, the RCN's general secretary, backed parents' demands for a public inquiry, but she dismissed suggestions that the Allitt case would damage the profession's standing.