Combating threats to healthcare staff

Physical assaults against health service staff is a significant problem. For the year 2012-13, physical assaults against NHS staff in England were shown to have risen from 59,744 in 2011-12 to 63,199 in 2012-13, according to figures collated from NHS Trusts across the UK.
Some healthcare staff are, of course, more at risk than others. Those who work in isolation, or out in the community, are at particular risk, and employers across the healthcare sector should be committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive lone worker policy to protect these employees, and the organisation at large.
Such ‘lone working’ is commonplace in the health sector, with a 2012 study by the Royal College of Nursing revealing that more than 60 per cent of community nurses spend more than half their time as lone workers without immediate access to a colleague for support. Over 70 per cent of respondents to this survey also reported that they had been subject to either physical assault or verbal abuse during the course of their jobs in the two years prior to the study.

Lone worker devices
Thankfully, the use of lone worker devices by many NHS Trusts and private healthcare firms is helping to alleviate this situation. Working alongside their clients in the healthcare sector, several members of the British Security Industry Association have developed highly-effective lone worker devices, which are equipped with mobile phone type GSM technology to connect employees quickly and discreetly with an emergency response system that has direct links to the police. In fact, a number of products are now commercially available from BSIA member companies, including the Reliance Protect solution used largely across the NHS, which is styled like an ID card holder.
Working alongside private security providers is a key element of the NHS’s lone worker protection strategy, and NHS Protect – the central security management body for the National Health Service – is actively involved with the BSIA’s Lone Worker section committee, particularly its work in the development of the British Standard for lone worker protection, BS8484. The adoption of BS8484 lone worker solutions in the NHS is implemented largely through a national Framework Agreement.
Choosing a supplier
Chris Allcard, Head of Lone Worker Services at Reliance High-Tech, comments: “Choosing a supplier whose lone worker protection solutions fully adhere to BS8484 is an essential step in mitigating and eliminating the risks faced by lone workers in the healthcare sector. One of the key benefits of BS8484 solutions, aside from a top priority response from the police, is that they enable audio evidence to be captured, which can be used as part of taking action against aggressors and offenders, giving healthcare organisations an added layer of protection.
“Integrating these solutions into an organisation’s lone working policies and procedures, coupled with ongoing compliance monitoring, can help provide a comprehensive solution such as is currently evident within the NHS.”
Other security technology used within the hospital, clinic or surgery setting can also help to reduce the risk of assault, while also protecting the vulnerable patients being cared for within. CCTV, for example, provides the healthcare sector with a mechanism to deter or detect criminals and trespassers, while monitoring the activity of authorised personnel such as staff, patients and visitors. In a hospital environment, such monitoring can offer peace of mind to both patients and visitors, knowing that no unwanted trespassers will infringe upon their privacy despite the hustle and bustle of a busy healthcare setting.
Such security can stem beyond the four walls of the premises. Cameras can also be strategically installed around the perimeter, particularly around car parks. Hospitals, in particular, are vulnerable to thefts from their long-stay parking, with many visitors staying for a long period of time, particularly if their loved ones are undergoing extensive treatments or lengthy operations. Therefore, thieves may see these unattended vehicles as easy targets. CCTV can closely monitor these areas, deterring thieves from damaging or stealing this property and maintaining a safe environment for those passing through.
Video content analysis
One particular element of CCTV that is being increasingly employed in a number of sectors, including healthcare, is that of Video Content Analysis (VCA). VCA is the name given to the automatic analysis of CCTV images, which is then used to create meaningful information regarding the content. For example, VCA can be used to automatically detect an intruder, or to count the number of people entering or leaving an area – beneficial, for instance, for keeping track of how many people have entered or left an emergency room during a given period of time.
If the area that needs protecting is particularly extensive – such as the multiple floors and rooms of a hospital building – then multiple screens are often required to be monitored at once. VCA can offer solutions to make this monitoring process as efficient as possible, particularly during the night when fewer staff may be on duty. Advances in technology means that this process can be streamlined through the deployment of either motion sensors for the CCTV – where the cameras only start rolling when movement is detected – or by using fence-mounted vibration detectors that trigger an alert in the security control room.

Further information