THE St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has launched a hate crime reporting scheme.

The reporting system, which is said to be the first by an NHS Trust, was launched as part of Merseyside Hate Crime Awareness Week.

The Trust says this follows an "increase in the reporting of hate crimes in the local area".

The new online reporting system is said to be able to help victims report any incidents or concerns in complete confidence.

A hate crime is defined as a crime that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Ann Marr, chief executive said: “As a Trust, we feel that is incredibly important for us to support our local community in all aspects of living, not just health.

"If someone is a victim of hate crime, it can greatly affect their emotional wellbeing, and it is vital that as a focal point for the local community, we offer a safe environment for patients and staff. I am proud that we are the first NHS organisation to provide this new way of reporting hate crime, hopefully it will go a long way to helping protect people’s quality of life.”

The Trust has worked in partnership with Merseyside Police for a number of years, with police officers holding awareness clinics at both St Helens and Whiston hospitals to raise awareness of hate crime with the local community.

The new online scheme extends this partnership and enables anyone from across the communities, to contact Merseyside Police’s hate crime co-ordinator direct.

Rob Carden, assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police, added: “The partnership between St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Merseyside Police is an innovative way to look after people and invite them to come forward if they experience hate crime. I commend the Trust for reaching out to those affected, all avenues to report crimes are welcome to ensure victims are heard and receive support.”

Detective chief inspector John Williams, head of the Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit at Merseyside Police, said: “We should encourage people to be individuals, unite and come together to fight the minority who feel the need to discriminate.

This scheme is really important, for the NHS Trust and Police to work together sends out a strong message that hate crime is not accepted in our local community.”

People can report a hate crime incident, or receive confidential advice, by visiting the Trust’s website and completing an online form.

This will then be sent directly to the local Hate Crime Co-ordinator who will deal with the report.