Staff and service-user protection

outset, that it meets all the necessary standards, but this approach needs to be more widespread. There have been several serious incidents where, for example, a non-compliant staff attack system failed to show staff the true location of the incident, resulting in fatalities. The importance of only installing compliant equipment, and of regularly checking that it is functioning properly, cannot, therefore, be overstated.” Returning to Guardian Staff Safety Systems, John Ridpath explained that the company was founded in 1999 by Granville Shaw, a technical engineer who previously worked for another safety system specialist before establishing his own business in Manchester and Worcester. He said: “Granville Shaw employed Lismore to produce some of the products for him. Consequently, when he retired, Lismore was only too happy to invest in us. Lismore manufactures hard-wired ‘radio’ nurse call equipment under the Intercall brand, and is a major supplier to the care home sector. Being acquired by it gives us substantial additional resources and access to an amazing range of technology. All Guardian Safety Systems equipment is now assembled here in Partridge Green. We are already moving forward to launch a new, advanced staff attack alarm system with some fantastic features which will once again help everyone in need of such equipment in this changing environment.”


John Ridpath explained that while mental healthcare had always been a key sector for Guardian Staff Safety Systems, in recent years the construction of many new mental healthcare facilities, along with a growing number of upgrade and refurbishment projects, had seen this area of business become ever more important. He added: “Remember, too, that it is not just staff that are attacked in such facilities, service-users attack each other too. Sometimes they may simply become distressed or unhappy with a particular situation. In such instances the staff member can quietly summon help simply by pressing an ‘Assistance’ button on any of their portable ‘triggers’, allowing other staff to discreetly attend and calm things down. More and more mental healthcare units are also incorporating outside areas, where staff and service-users also need protection. Our staff safety range includes IP 55-certified receivers, which protect against water ingress, and can be mounted in external locations.”

DISTRIBUTORS AND CONSULTANTS John Ridpath said Guardian Staff Safety Systems was particularly pleased that, with growing recognition of the benefits of standardising upon a single, reliable, and well-engineered equipment ‘brand’ – whether a staff safety system, nurse call, fire alarm, or BMS – across, say, multiple mental healthcare facilities operated by the same Trust, a number, such as the Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, had done just that. He said: “We also deal with many large private healthcare providers who see the benefits of utilising our fully compliant nurse call and staff safety solutions. Their staff also benefit from the familiarity of having the same equipment on every site, and associated


HISTORIC DURABILITY When looking for distributors, Guardian seeks ‘historic durability’. John Ridpath added: “Many of the distributors we favour are security companies, who also supply and install products such as fire alarms, and tend to be highly technically capable.”

Bench testing in progress.

advantages as regards maintenance costs and spares. A lot of our work comes via M&E consultants, and through our distributors, who do an exceptional job for us.” As he had alluded to earlier, John Ridpath

stressed that one of the company’s major concerns in mental healthcare is that unless a staff attack alert system is properly maintained, it may not fulfil its vital function. While all Guardian’s key distributors offer service and maintenance contracts, John Ridpath said take- up was ‘by no means universal’. He elaborated: “Without proper service back-up, and, equally importantly, effective staff training, there can be real problems. For example, visiting a large London mental healthcare facility recently that has been using our systems for several years, I discovered that the manager was not only unaware that staff should be testing the staff alarm trigger before going on duty each time, but also had no knowledge of who, if anyone, was maintaining the system.”


He added: “In times gone by estates and facilities personnel looked after such equipment, but a lot of maintenance work is now outsourced. If these relationships break down, responsibility tends to return ‘in-house’, but by then the staff responsible for maintaining the staff safety system may have lost all track of what needs to be done; hence the risk that equipment not adequately maintained will fail. In today’s NHS mental health units staff attack alert systems are generally maintained by estates personnel. If, however, a well-organised and resourced team following the approach we recommend encounters a problem it cannot rectify, the manager then simply contacts our local distributor with whom he already has a service agreement. Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has, for example, asked us for a list of our fully trained and qualified distributors, and has certified that it will always go out to tender via them. The Trust has also agreed that, should it change the company maintaining its staff attack system, it will ensure that the new incumbent is fully trained and certificated. Sadly, not enough Trusts adopt this very sensible approach.”

Moving to discuss the company’s own staff safety technology, and while Guardian Staff Safety Systems does offer wireless buttons that can link to its equipment, most of its products are hard-wired. John Ridpath explained: “While modern wireless systems can be quite capable, in a life-critical area such as staff protection there remains a risk of signal interference, and sometimes the causes can be quite surprising. For instance, visiting one site where a wireless staff safety system wouldn’t operate on two particular days each week, we discovered that a lead-lined X-ray lorry parking between two buildings was preventing signal transmission between them. At Hellingly Hospital, meanwhile, a medium secure unit near Hailsham in Sussex, staff found that when they initially used new wireless pagers installed as part of a new system in new inpatient buildings, the electric doors started opening.

HARD-WIRED VERSUS WIRELESS “First and foremost, when one is considering the merits of wireless and hard-wired systems, both options have their markets. However, ‘dependability’ is the most important factor when people’s safety is at risk. A well-designed, modern hard-wired staff safety system is reliable, will quickly alert users to any faults, and is easily expanded. Equally, in a mental healthcare setting, use of anti-ligature components is vital, and to date we know of no manufacturer that can offer a wireless stainless steel ligature-proof alarm button that can be flush-mounted and is HBN and HTM-compliant. For mental healthcare applications, the reliability, anti-ligature capability, and signal integrity of a hard-wired system will always – in our view – make it the best solution.”

John Ridpath explained that nowadays, ‘nine times out of 10’ when it supplies acute and mental healthcare facilities, Guardian provides both a nurse call system and a staff attack alert system as one ‘package’. He said: “It makes sense to have both systems utilising the same displays, and makes the equipment cheaper to

The personal alarm triggers are a fast, portable, and efficient means of summoning help.

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