Staff and service-user protection

A meticulous approach to maintaining safety

Ensuring that staff equipped with its staff attack alarms are well trained in their use to maximise both their own and service-users’ safety, getting mental healthcare providers to better communicate to share lessons, experience, and expertise, and encouraging the strengthening of guidance and standards governing such technology, are among the key priorities for Guardian Staff Safety Systems, John Ridpath, the company’s sales director, told The Network’s editor, Jonathan Baillie, when they met recently at the manufacturer’s Sussex base.

Guardian Staff Safety Systems says its staff safety equipment is now ‘the preferred choice’ of several Government departments; its staff attack alert systems are also extensively used by NHS Trusts and private healthcare providers in the acute, and, particularly the mental healthcare, sectors. Alongside having installed staff safety systems into many hospitals, mental healthcare units, primary care centres, and GPs’ surgeries worldwide over the past two decades, Guardian has seen a big increase in the range of other organisations specifying such equipment – from airports, courtrooms, job centres, and bail hostels, to schools, council offices, and high street banks. Its equipment is mainly supplied, installed, and maintained, by a small network of trusted distributors.

LISTENING TO CUSTOMERS One of the major contributors to its success, John Ridpath told me when I met him at one of the company’s two main UK offices, in Partridge Green near Horsham (its second is in Evesham), has been a process of ongoing new product development, ‘driven by a combination of continuing advances in communications technology and listening to our customers’. He said: “Many of the features in a Guardian system were incorporated in direct response to requests from customers who had encountered specific issues requiring new solutions. Take, for example, the new anti-ligature ‘mushroom’ push button with integral reassurance LED that we launched into the mental healthcare sector a year ago – ideal for users with disabilities and arthritic conditions, because they can use any part of their limb to push the button. Made using high strength Aerospace Kaiser Aluminium, it is available in a variety of colours, for instance for dementia patients who prefer specific colour pushes.”

ACQUISITION BY LISMORE Returning briefly to the company, and John Ridpath explained that, four years ago, Guardian Staff Safety Systems – which sells both through authorised, approved distributors and installers who can provide local support and service, and direct – was acquired by international communications business, the Lismore Group. One of the latter’s key brands is the Intercall nurse call range, with which Guardian’s own staff safety and protection equipment is fully compatible. Indeed Intercall nurse call and Guardian Staff Safety Systems components are now frequently supplied into healthcare facilities, including inpatient mental health units, as a single, integrated package.

HBN AND HTM COMPLIANCE “Looking specifically at mental healthcare – which is now our biggest market,” John Ridpath explained, “our staff attack alarm systems are fully compliant with both HBN 03-01, Adult mental health units: planning and design, and HTM 08-03, Bedhead services. This compliance, and the equipment’s advanced features, coupled with the components being easy to install, use, and maintain, has made them increasingly popular with security, estates and facilities, and clinical personnel keen to ensure the safety of staff and service-users across a broad range of mental healthcare facilities.” Before we talked through some of the key features of Guardian’s staff attack alarm equipment, however, John Ridpath was keen to discuss the wider mental healthcare sphere, and some of the issues the company’s customers face.

DIMHN’S VITAL ROLE He said: “One thing that has really struck us is how few personnel specifying equipment within mental health Trusts or private mental healthcare groups actually talk to each other.

Guardian Staff Safety Systems sales director, John Ridpath.

We regularly find that one acute mental health NHS Trust has no idea of the approaches being successfully used by even a neighbouring Trust. We are committed members of the Design in Mental Health Network, which plays a key role in spreading the word on a wide range of issues, and in sharing expertise. We are often equally surprised that even some M&E consultants working on mental health projects will include staff safety systems and user call systems without including any standards within their documented specifications. Given that we are dealing here with critical life safety equipment, an ill-judged choice of system can pose a significant risk to staff and service-users. It is also worrying, when we talk to consultants, to discover that some apparently have little knowledge of the key standards and guidance documents governing staff attack alarm systems.

PRESSURES OF WORK “You would also,” John Ridpath continued, “expect security personnel at mental health Trusts, who are often involved in specifying staff attack alarm systems, to be fully cognisant of all the applicable standards. However – often due to workload pressures – many cannot attend the few industry meetings that do occur, resulting in some significant knowledge gaps that can see sub-standard equipment installed. Fortunately, the best M&E companies won’t even consider specifying equipment without checking, at the


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