Across many industries and sectors of our everyday lives, we are generally aware of the need for security and other measures which deter the criminal element within our communities. However, there is an ever-increasing need for more to be done within the healthcare sector, not only for asset protection but also for the protection of staff and patients alike. Year on year, cases of assaults are increasing due to the lack of funding for NHS and private medical facilities.
‘’the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.”
This also brings into question the expenditure on security and why it’s more valuable and cost effective to have appropriate security measures in place. Being proactive rather than reactive can put less strain on budgets, allowing healthcare facilities to do what they do best – look after the health and wellbeing of our communities.
So much so that there is an association dedicated to the security sector of the healthcare system in the UK, The National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS).
‘The National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS) was formed in 1994, as a non-profit making professional organisation in the United Kingdom. The association is committed to providing a robust and professional service to our members, delivering on our strategy and the ongoing development of Security Management within the Healthcare sector.’ www.nahs.org.uk
Unbelievably, the recent COVID 19 pandemic has seen the need for added security within this realm, for the ongoing health & safety of all stakeholders, including asset protection in all aspects of the sector from Government to private institutions. And the recent events across the globe have highlighted the World Health Organisation stance on such issues.
According to the WHO Constitution, ‘’the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.”
‘’Pandemics, health emergencies and weak health systems not only cost lives but pose some of the greatest risks to the global economy and security faced today. Further, universal health coverage and health security are two sides of the same coin: improved access to health care and strengthened health systems provide a strong defence against emerging threats, whether natural or man-made.’’
‘15% of NHS employees have experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months’
There are two main reasons, the first is the obvious which is normal everyday general security as a deterrent for those with malicious intent in protecting physical assets. This has always been an issue across every sector of the community and will continue to remain the same because of the ever-present criminal elements in society. Whether it’s vandalism or theft, these are the security issues that are under constant review and analysis, to understand how they can be tackled and what we can do to prevent them.
The second, and possibly more important issue, is the physical and mental safety of everyone involved. Physical assaults and verbal abuse are on the rise every year and the need for added professional security is in demand more than ever. The most recent NHS staff survey showed that more than 15% of NHS employees have experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months – the highest figure for 5 years. Even in the private sector, professional security staff are being employed to help deal with aggressive behaviour.
Typically, there has always been a need for asset protection no matter what sector of the community is involved. From the seemingly petty vandalism right through to theft and more. Whilst vandalism in itself is rather minor compared to other forms of criminality, the costs can add up extremely fast. Generally, there is a combination of vandalism/criminal damage and theft together.
In one case of theft and vandalism, bosses at the NHS said ‘’… thieves stole lead flashings from the roof and, in doing so, displaced the stonework and caused structural damage. To combat this the trust this year has spent around £35,000 to repair ‘malicious’ damage with a further £17,000 being spent on extra security in an effort to catch and deter criminals, which bosses say is diverting resources away from patient care.’’ www.thisislancashire.co.uk
In this case, the expenditure on security was almost half the cost of the criminal damage. This demonstrates a good insight into the reasons why security deterrence is more cost effective than not. There are many more cases like this across the health sector ,costing the segment more and more every year.
Churchill Security specialise in asset protection from foot patrols and spot checks through to dog handling for larger sites. With the ability to move around and monitor various areas and provide services such as internal and external patrols, their mobile units deliver security that goes beyond a fixed location.
In these situations, visibility is paramount, so fully uniformed mobile security guards and marked patrol vehicles are an essential part of deterrents, as are highly visible boards at entrance and exit points. Acting as an effective visual deterrent, foot patrols significantly reduce the opportunity for crime such as trespassing, vandalism and theft.
The second more worrying demand, is the need of security for the physical wellbeing of patients and staff within the healthcare system.
Within the recent figures from the NHS, the trend is concerning and the demand for an increase of security measure is increasing.
‘’Growing numbers of NHS personnel in England have been the victim of a violent attack at work …. Figures supplied by hospital trusts have shown that they recorded 56,435 physical assaults on staff in 2016-17, up 9.7% on the 51,447 recorded the year before.
Nurses, paramedics and mental health staff are among those most likely to be assaulted.
Acute hospital trusts have seen the biggest increase in attacks. There were 18,720 assaults on their staff during 2016-17, 21% more than the 15,469 the previous year.’’ www.theguardian.com
‘Anyone who threatens, or abuses NHS staff should be prosecuted under the new law protecting health care workers’
Companies like Churchill Security are getting more and more calls to assist in this area, especially for security personnel with conflict management skills. Whether it be for the protection of staff from patients themselves, or their visitors becoming aggressive.
In 2018, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:
‘’NHS staff dedicate their lives to protecting and caring for us in our times of greatest need and for any one of them to be subject to aggression or violence is completely unacceptable.
I have made it my personal mission to ensure NHS staff feel safe and secure at work and the new violence reduction strategy will be a key strand of that.’’
This has been such an issue, that measures to deal with violence in the health sector were introduced back in 2018. The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act came into place, with a maximum prison sentence for assaulting an emergency worker double from 6 months to a year.
‘NHS staff spend their working days caring and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount. No one should be abused, threatened or attacked at work ‒ especially when all they’re trying to do is help people. Anyone who threatens or abuses NHS staff should be prosecuted under the new law protecting health care workers.’ Sara Gorton, UNISON
More often than not, in the past, staff security was low on the list of priorities for many reasons, whether it was budget constraints, or the need just wasn’t there. But now priorities have changed with assaults on health care workers on the rise more needs to be done to protect them.
‘’I was a nurse for almost 20 years and the escalation in violent events is worrying. Things can get out of hand within seconds. Having security staff on hand, saves us having to deal with physical threats, and allows us to do our job looking after the wellbeing of patients’’ Tara Marygold – Sister NHS
In a lot of cases, having security staff onsite is more than enough to deter people from initiating any kind of conflict. If needs be, well trained staff like those at Churchill Security, can handle any situation that may arise. Alleviating the burden on medical staff who are not trained to deal with these kinds of situations, not only protects them, but would increase retention of personnel because they feel much safer in the workplace.
Support for healthcare professionals from the security sector is now paramount, highlighted even more so because of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the need for personal protection from those frustrated by what they don’t necessarily understand.
“I also would make a plea for all the public to just add kindness to our staff. We’ve heard that people are spitting at our nurses. It is just not right, they’re working very, very hard. I want to make sure that we’re all playing our part in this coronavirus fight.” Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer for England
The use of security personnel gives much greater peace of mind to medical professionals, given the situations they can find themselves in, and acts as one of the best deterrents for any verbal or physical altercations. Churchill Security are often utilised for ‘one off’ situations where ‘known patient’ tendencies require short term security for bed watch and are trained in professional restraint techniques. As well as long term personal protection across the NHS and private medical facility sector.
Companies like Churchill Security can be and are used as staff support within the health care field, but more needs to be done in order to make staff and patients feel safe in this environment.
In general terms, more needs to be done in the Health sector to provide better results when it comes to asset and staff security. However, when you add in the pressure of a global pandemic, like COVID 19, the system is stretched to breaking point. Churchill Security have seen a marked increase in the number of calls resulting in the deployment of added security across a broad range of areas in the medical community because of COVID 19.
Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, condemned those who abuse NHS workers. He said: “Our NHS staff are in the vanguard of our fight against the coronavirus and should be praised for their efforts not abused.” www.express.co.uk – 20th March 2020
Emergencies like COVID 19 will soon be analysed from a professional security point of view and new measures will need to be put in place should anything like this happen again in the future. No one saw this coming, but hindsight is always a great thing and the more we can learn from this – the better we will be prepared in the future.
The use of private security in this segment of the market is increasing every year because staff are professionally trained in general security, conflict management, correct restraint procedures and more allowing health care experts to do their job and not be concerned about their personal safety. Given that even when punitive measures are put in place and may pose some deterrent, the trend of increased security needs is still there.
No one should have to deal with violence in their workplace and certainly not those who are trying to help with medical intervention. No business whether Government or private, should have to worry about criminal theft or malicious damage, but the reality is that it does happen and the more measures that can be introduced to combat this, the better. Not only does it save money in the long term for asset protection, it also more importantly saves the mental and physical wellbeing of everyone involved.
Should you have any concerns about yours or your staff’s safety, Churchill Security are always available to discuss any needs and can offer bespoke solutions for any part of the Health Care sector.