Keeping staff, patients and visitors safe

The protection of staff, patients and visitors is a top priority for those responsible for security in the healthcare sector. Frontline staff across the UK face a number of threats whilst on duty, with figures suggesting that the number of attacks against them is on the rise. James Kelly, of the British Security Industry Association, discusses how CCTV systems can provide an effective deterrent to would be criminals and help to protect staff, patients and visitors

Many sites within the healthcare sector will have a large transient population and many are accessible 24 hours a day. This can pose challenges in monitoring and restricting access to the public areas of a site, which brings challenges to ensuring that the site is safe for staff, patients and visitors.

Worryingly, the rate of attacks against frontline workers in the healthcare sector has been steadily rising according to a report published by the Greater London Authority Conservatives (GLAC). During the period covered by the report, the number of recorded attacks against frontline NHS staff rose from 13,436 in 2010/11 to 16,475 in 2012/13. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to not only protect the valuable assets within healthcare sites, but also to ensure the safety of frontline workers.

CCTV can be particularly effective in enhancing the security of sites such as hospitals in terms of both crime detection and deterrence. The placement of CCTV technology alongside visible signage can deter would be criminals from engaging in criminal activity for fear of evidence being recorded on camera.

CCTV cameras are also unrivalled in their ability to gather real time intelligence – facilitating a speedy and informed response from security staff and/or the police. The ability for CCTV control room staff to track offenders using multiple cameras enables them to monitor their whereabouts and deploy on-site hospital security staff quickly and efficiently. In addition, where incidents require the attendance of the police, real-time monitoring of the camera can enable system operators to provide the Police with on-going information as the incident unfolds.

Evidence gathered using CCTV cameras is one of the most successful ways of securing convictions in court; criminals are much more likely to plead guilty when faced by the undeniable evidence of being caught on camera. Using CCTV evidence to secure a conviction in court also serves to save money for the public purse. According to Hugh Marriage, former Home Office crime reduction officer for the South-East of England, ‘a court hearing with a guilty verdict saves around £3,000 to £5,000 and CCTV pictures mean there has been an enormous increase in guilty verdicts’. Indeed, in 2010 alone, the Met Police stated that one in six crimes are solved thanks to CCTV solutions.

According to the GLAC’s report, neither the Department of Health, nor the NHS Protect holds data on the number of trusts that have CCTV in their A&E departments and Urgent Care Centres. The report did however receive responses from three of the six London hospital trusts with such emergency departments that are mentioned in the report. All three reported that they have CCVT in A&E departments and Urgent Care Centres which record footage of violent incidents against patient-facing staff.

Technology to combat the terrorist threat
The threat level for international terrorism in the UK remains at SEVERE as it has done since August 2014. Those responsible for the security of sites in the health care sector should also be mindful of the specific threats that their organisation might face.

One application of CCTV solutions that can be used to help protect busy sites, such as hospitals, from terror threats is that of video analytics. This impressive technology is rapidly developing and is invaluable in the protection of largely populated areas – such as hospitals- from the risk of terrorist attacks. One particularly useful application of video analytics in terms of public space surveillance is ‘object left/object removed’. ‘Object left’ refers to the identification of an unattended item such as a bag or package – potentially containing an explosive device.

Often, making the assumption that an unattended package is malicious can cause panic and lead to a chaotic situation, which could be disruptive to the provision of care. It is therefore crucial for security professionals to make the assertion as to whether there is an innocent explanation or if the item is indeed malicious and requiring an immediate evacuation. ‘Object removed’ allows CCTV operators to be notified regarding the offending object, allowing for its removal and the restoration of public order.

Driving standards forward
In 2012, the Protection of Freedoms Act formalised the government’s intention to drive CCTV best practice forward. The CCTV Code of Practice - made up of twelve guiding principles - aimed to define best practice in a way wherein public protection was paramount. The Code provides guidance on the appropriate and effective use of surveillance camera systems by relevant authorities (as defined under Section 30 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012) in England and Wales, who must have regard to the Code when exercising any functions to which the Code relates.

Whilst NHS trusts are not currently considered as relevant authorities – and thereby obliged to comply – they are encouraged to do so by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. Given that NHS trusts are funded by the public and that sites are generally accessible by the public, the Code may be expanded to require NHS organisations to comply with the Code in the future.

The purpose of the Code is to ensure that individuals and wider communities have confidence that surveillance cameras are deployed to protect and support them, rather than to spy on them. To achieve this, the Code sets out 12 guiding principles that should apply to all surveillance camera systems in public places. By voluntarily adopting the Code, trusts will be reassuring staff, patients and visitors that the use of surveillance cameras is for a specified purpose in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and that the effects on individuals and their privacy has been carefully considered.

CCTV is one of the most important developments in the security landscape of recent years and maintains a pivotal role in the safety and security of healthcare sites. The success of any system requires a diligent approach to planning, design, installation, maintenance and operation, as well as the use of high quality products. Members of the BSIA’s CCTV section are experts in the CCTV arena and are committed to developing and sharing best practice to drive up standards in the industry.

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