Lone Worker Safety in the NHS

Craig Swallow's latest blog

Last week NHS Protect released the findings of a recent study into ‘Lone worker estate mapping’ – a report “carried out to define lone working in the NHS and to map potential risks of violence and aggression, taking into account both lone worker activities and the lone worker protection systems adopted by organisations on their own initiative or facilitated by NHS Protect through the framework agreements”.

The report was thorough, and wide-ranging and based upon data collected by over 2,000 stakeholders in the NHS, with over 700 commissioned services invited by NHS Protect to participate.

Clearly, it’s difficult to implement consistent policy and procedure across such a large number of lone workers – and the NHS framework agreement remains the largest single contract regarding provision of a lone worker solution in the UK.

The good news:

Well, SoloProtect’s Identicom device remains by far the most commonly used lone worker device in the NHS. Its ID badge form factor has always been popular in the sector, and that is emphasized by the fact that it remains three times more popularly used than other devices in the NHS (specifically by device volume) – with nearly 40% of NHS lone worker device users, having an Identicom.
This remains a matter close to my heart on a personal and professional level. With both friends and family having worked in the NHS and the job I’ve done for over 12 years now, I understand many of the risks to staff. Couple that with the five years we spent in getting Identicom to be a key part of the NHS framework agreement, and its implementation by partners and roll-out at trust-level, it’s clear that a lot of good work has been done. But there are always new challenges – and regarding some of those, we’ve only really started to scratch the surface.

Room for improvement:

Mobile phones continue to be issued to staff with a verbal abuse / attack risk. Given that mobiles are overt to use, and not necessarily less expensive that a dedicated lone worker device, I continue to be amazed by that fact. A wearable, discreet device like Identicom can be operated without having to break eye contact – a huge benefit where a tense social situation might be in progress. The ability to capture audio evidence is also much easier and less risky.

The report highlights there is ‘significant variation’ how lone worker protection is provided, across different sectors, regions and organisations’. This can make it difficult to gauge where particular issues (either organisationally, geographically or in terms of individual job role types) exist that suggest lone workers in that area require a particular or higher level of protection, and that a mechanism exists for that to be put in place.

Attacks on staff are falling, but only by a tiny margin, 14% and 28% of staff experienced physical violence or bullying respectively, from either a patient, a patient’s relative or a member of the public in the previous 12 months. Underreporting also remains a considerable issue with 33% of physical attacks not reported full stop.

A key concern mentioned is that of low usage – which is not an uncommon challenge for an employer implementing a lone worker solution to face. At SoloProtect we find client usage is generally high where evidence of all of the below exists:

o A clear and well communicated lone worker policy, one that makes it very clear what is expected of the lone worker, managers and the board. Usage of the lone worker solution deployed should we written into the policy so that its use is mandatory.

o Support from direct line managers with regular and open reporting of usage levels within the organisation. Often league tables are used to highlight those departments with high and with low usage.

o Well trained users. Any supplier should provide initial training and then regular ongoing training for those who are low-users.

o An encouragement from managers and senior execs to see dynamic risk assessment carried out before visits.

o Praise for those staff who are regular or habitual users.

The lowest level of intention to improve lone worker protection is unsurprisingly found amongst organisation’s that currently have the lowest level of protection. Seems straightforward you might think, and it is, but it further highlights how an organisation is key to driving adoption attitudes – without proper support from management, and policy driving the culture – improvements in lone worker protection won’t be made, and neither will attitudes change. Until someone is attacked perhaps.

The report in full was available under https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/Documents/SecurityManagement/Lone_Worker_Estate_Mapping_Report_July_2015.pdf

Taken from the original blog post.

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