Security and communication

SLAM’s security challenge metvia ‘proven system’

As the provider of the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust takes the safety of staff and patients very seriously. Here Paul Lawrence, managing director of provider of ICT and workflow solutions, Ascom, looks at how the global communications company is assisting the Trust via its ‘state-of-the-art security technology’ – as part of an enduring 16-year partnership.

With a worldwide reputation for mental health research and treatment development, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM) is a UK leader – and so are its security systems. Understandably, safety is an issue that the Trust takes very seriously. A survey by the trade union, Unison, revealed in October 2017 that 20 per cent of NHS mental health workers had been abused or attacked by a patient over the previous year,1 sharply highlighting the sector’s need for security technology that works effectively. SLAM provides a diverse range of therapeutic services across five sites that could not be more different in terms of geography and the level of security needed. At one end of the spectrum is a new outpatient therapy unit in Brixton, while at the other is one of the largest medium secure psychiatric units in England – on a 270-acre site with extensive grounds – at the Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ascom was brought in to address SLAM’s security challenge in 2002. Back then, Ascom’s paging system was the ‘state-of-the-art technology of choice’ for healthcare facilities. The Trust’s focus at the time was to protect staff where security was most needed, at the Bethlem

Royal Hospital. It then added IR location on a small number of wards where it was felt necessary.


By 2007, Ascom had developed its IP digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) solution for rapid emergency response. It was tested on a small number of wards, and the system grew through the rest of the Bethlem Royal Hospital to replace the old paging infrastructure. When the River House medium secure unit was built at the hospital, Ascom integrated the DECT solution with the existing hard-wired panic system on the wards. This meant that if panic buttons on the wall were activated, the message was distributed to staff members via handsets. Ascom also built in a capability for staff to reset the system from handsets, rather than having to walk back to the control unit, saving precious time, and maintaining security.

Ascom has worked hand in hand with the

Trust as its technology has evolved over 16 years – moving from simple messaging to today’s sophisticated handheld communications that integrate with the Trust’s building security systems to give widespread coverage.

Ascom’s robust i62 handset, with its top push-button and ‘man-down’ alarms.

For several years all types of workers at the

Trust – from porters and estates staff to nurses and doctors – have been using 1,500 of Ascom’s handsets linked to its DECT solution. The system was rolled out over an 18-month period, with staff training and ongoing maintenance and support from Ascom.

The main building at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham. 28 THE NETWORK APRIL 2018

FEWER VIOLENT INCIDENTS The Trust’s local security management specialist, Simon Jackson, is certain that the system has reduced violent incidents. He said: “I see the proof in how widespread the system is now. We began at one hospital, and it was so successful and generated so much staff confidence that we rolled it out across all our facilities.” Ascom has developed its IP DECT to become what we believe to be the most reliable voice and data communication technology for dispersed sites. It has guaranteed coverage and uptime via secure dedicated frequency bands, plus remote system supervision. The software links the handsets with existing security and fire alarms, building management, and light/sound systems, to ensure direct contact with emergency response teams. It means, for example, that if the fire alarm goes off in one area, nurses can reach it quickly and ensure that patients and staff are secure before evacuation doors are released. The fire alarm can be re-set via the handset. For the larger sites – the Bethlem, Maudsley and Lambeth hospitals – Ascom provided the full IP DECT communications system, including its industry-grade, touchscreen handsets with the latest lone worker monitoring software. The system has high voice quality, and provides the best possible coverage for the geography of the hospitals. Central control can pinpoint staff to a

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