Security and communication

specific room or within a few metres outside. For the smaller Ladywell Unit at Lewisham Hospital, and the outpatient facility on Brixton Road, we installed a Wi-Fi solution with a real-time location system to track staff and ensure their safety.

A TAILORED APPROACH Ascom’s tailored approach ensured that it could meet different estate needs across the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s estate while providing the Trust with the most cost-effective solutions. To protect lone workers at the larger sites, we installed pull-cord alarms in every ward, with ‘man-down’ software that identifies staff at immediate risk and their location via the handsets. Importantly, the system is controlled independently, and provides a log of every event for reporting, quality review, and improvement. It is designed to be scalable – growing with the Trust as it develops services.

‘UNIQUE’ SYSTEM FOR NURSES Ascom has installed a unique solution for nurses at SLAM’s medium secure unit. They begin and end each shift at a biometric scanner that checks their fingerprints before releasing a locker containing a handset and ward keys. It can be used to store personal items during the shift. If a nurse is part of the emergency response team, and is needed to help at an incident, an alarm will go off on their handset. The handset can also set off an emergency signal on the ward, and sends the alarm by relay to other handsets across the wider emergency team. It can also summon help by activating lights above doors and a display in the unit’s nursing station. Staff can follow the sequence of lights to locate an incident. A ward alarm can also activate the handsets, ensuring that staff are summoned quickly.


If a patient is bedbound, a nurse can stay with them in a firewalled room during an alarm incident, with the assurance that they can keep in constant touch with the rest of the team via a handheld device. Because each staff member has a handset, it is easy to do a headcount of all staff in an emergency, even those out in the hospital grounds. A safety alarm can be activated anywhere in the grounds – a vital feature for porters and estates staff, who are often lone workers.

The handsets enable interactive messaging, texting, and hands-free speech, and have swappable SIM cards to enable them to be switched flexibly among staff if necessary. They also integrate with the Trust’s (PBX) telephone system, so that users can make and receive standard phone calls.

GENERATING COMFORT AND SAFETY Simon Jackson is candid about the benefits of the system. “It’s not the cheapest on the market, but for us the cost was outweighed by the benefits,” he explained. “Not only do staff feel safer, but it has generated comfort and safety for patients. They see how much more quickly staff are able respond to emergency calls, and are thus confident that there will not be a significant delay if they need help.” Patients’ bedrooms have wall-mounted panic

alarms. These used to sound in every ward, causing disturbance to other patients, but they are

The d81 handset is designed to withstand demanding environments, and offers ‘top quality speech and messaging’, plus direct connectivity with other equipment.

now linked more discreetly to nurses’ handsets. Simon Jackson lists reliability and user-friendliness as key features of the Ascom system, adding: “Staff find it easy to use, and it’s very flexible. They can easily move from inside to outside the building because of the protected DECT network. They are confident that there will be no interference or communication blackspots. That commitment to coverage is a big thing for us, operating as we do on sites with large grounds.” The system is also, he explains, reassuring during evenings, at night, and at weekends, when there may be fewer people in the hospital. “Staff are confident that they can get hold of one another easily,” he explains. “The handsets have phone books, and calls can be easily transferred to another part of the Trust.”

A MULTI-SITE ESTATE Flexibility and adaptability are vital for a Trust like SLAM with a multi-site estate. Simon Jackson gives an example: “We currently rent some premises from another Trust, but will not be in there for a long time. Ascom came up with a Wi- Fi solution that gave us more access points and an alarm system without having to install a new network. It was much more cost-effective. We did not have to close the ward to install it, and knew that, when we moved, we could take the Wi-Fi system to our new premises, so the investment is still there.”

Paul Lawrence

With over 36 years’ experience in leading companies, Paul Lawrence is managing director of Ascom (UK) – a global solutions provider of ICT and workflow solutions for the healthcare, retail, and hospitality sectors, and industry. He is ‘passionate about transforming operational effectiveness through communication, enabling organisations to make the best possible decisions – regardless of location’. At Ascom, Paul Lawrence has overseen the move to a brand new headquarters in Lichfield, Staffordshire, the launch of the company’s flagship nurse call system, a portfolio of mobile workflow solutions, and growth into acute and mental health hospitals. In other markets, meanwhile, he has developed growth in four of the five major UK supermarkets, hotels, and manufacturing plants, ‘delivering mission-critical communications to improve staff safety, efficiency, and patient/customer satisfaction’. Having previously worked both in the UK and internationally at companies including GEC, Siemens, and Virgin Media, his broad technology and communications experience covers both fixed and wireless voice, video, data, mobility, cloud, digital, and hosting systems.


Keeping 1,500 handsets operating efficiently is no small task, and SLAM has a slick operation to enable ‘hot swapping’ of devices. Staff who bring a broken handset to the Estates Department can quickly have their data transferred onto a new device and leave their old one in the cradle to be fixed. “It means there is no downtime for devices, and we can provide first line triage for faults, keeping the whole system running as smoothly as possible,” Simon Jackson explains. Keeping track of handsets that are inadvertently taken off Trust premises is an issue the organisation is still grappling with. Simon Jackson elaborates: “We need to be able to track them once they have left the perimeter of the hospital, which is a problem for us.” Lost handsets aside, would he recommend the Ascom system to other Trusts? He says: “Certainly. I have often recommended it, and we have had visits from other Trusts. The best thing for me is the security of the network, and the adaptability of the system. I think it could have a role outside mental healthcare facilities where safety is a concern for staff and patients alike, for instance in big A&E departments.”

REFERENCES 1 Cuts to mental health leave staff facing violence and aggression, says UNISON. UNISON, 8 October 2017.


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