Staff and service-user protection

individual can go and assist. Often mental healthcare facilities using a staff attack alert system will have a protocol of 2-3 set personnel that will attend particular incidents. Our systems can also link with phones. The actual display units in mental healthcare units are generally located at ‘Reception’, nurse call stations, and in corridors, with units that patients could access flush-mounted to comply with regulations and guidance. The systems record every call and every incident. Should an incident take place that needs investigating, a management or Board representative, or indeed a CQC inspector, can subsequently view and download all the associated data. The system offers the ability to really drill down into the data – on anything from staff response times to whether an individual staff member tested their trigger that morning; it is thus an excellent management tool. In nearly every system combining nurse call and staff attack functions that we supply, all alerts appear on one set of displays.”

OTHER INNOVATIVE FEATURES I asked about other key features. John Ridpath said: “The system gives the precise location of each call, and automatically tracks the user wherever they go once the ‘Assist’ or the ‘Attack’ button are activated.” Typically the ‘Assist’ button might be used when, say, two service-users are in a protracted argument and the staff member feels the situation could escalate, or, alternatively, to alert a staff colleague that help is needed in the event of a patient fall. He added: “The display will show different types of call using customer-selected colours or tones. The HTM guidance on staff attack does not stipulate particular colours for different types of staff safety alerts; we can configure the system as the user requires”. I wondered how stringent the requirements and criteria for staff safety systems in, for example, HTM 08-03 were. John Ridpath said: “They are not, in our view, totally up to date. For example: ‘Safety Action notices’ were sent out by the NHS in recent years to warn facilities departments that low voltage infra-red systems had caused several incidents due to interference from high frequency lamps and other electrical units. However, even after this, the applicable HTM standards have not yet been updated accordingly.

TRACKING ABILITY “We also believe that staff attack systems need to be able to ‘track’ the user once activated; some do this more effectively than others. With our system, should a ‘user’ be chased or taken away from where they first activated their alarm trigger, the system will update their new position

A display showing the precise location of calls.

move by move. Unlike some other systems, it will also ‘turn off ‘the last location so as not to confuse the attendees with lots of wrong lights and messages. The combination of HF IR sensors and small, loft-mounted discrete radio aerials ensures really efficient tracking.” The Guardian Staff Safety System components will also interface with a wide range of other equipment so that alarms can also be viewed, and even controlled, on the same displays. John Ridpath said: “For instance, when linked to a CCTV system, the cameras can zoom in on the incident when a trigger is activated. We can also include door access systems, along with another component ever more in demand – overdoor pressure alarms to prevent inpatient suicide. Dementia care is another area of increasing demand for particular components – such as for bed monitoring and movement detection.” John Ridpath had already alluded to the importance of regular testing of ‘triggers’. He said: “While our triggers will confirm that the battery charge level is fine, most clients now use our small test box, into which staff can insert their trigger. This not only tests the trigger without activating an alarm, but also ensures that the process is logged onto the network for accountability.”

A TAILORED RESPONSE The Guardian staff attack alert system can, if required, also be configured to only alert particular staff members. He said: “In some mental healthcare settings if a service-user does not relate well to a particular staff member, and that person attending them could cause problems, with the triggers configured by name to specific personnel, the system will then only send alerts from that patient to selected staff.” When discussing installing a system with, say, an NHS Trust, John Ridpath explained that,

alongside talking through the required features, Guardian Staff Safety Systems always emphasises that one of the key questions to potential suppliers should be about the equipment’s long-term costs. He said: “Some manufacturers, for example, will deliberately utilise their own closed technical protocol – meaning they will not offer any ‘in-house’ training, and that only their own engineers can look after a system, which gives them almost carte blanche call out charges. We have one customer in Jersey, for instance, with a ‘particular’ system on which they have to pay £1,000 each time an engineer visits, even if he or she is only on site to reprogram something for a few minutes. The customer rang us to ask if we could help by getting our local distributor to undertake his maintenance instead. However, where – as in this instance – the original supplier has stipulated that its equipment can only be maintained by its own engineers, and that nobody else can buy its spares, the customer’s options are very limited.”

‘OPEN PROTOCOL’ EQUIPMENT John Ridpath emphasised that with Guardian’s staff attack alert equipment ‘open protocol’, no special software is needed to maintain it or make upgrades. He added: “Anyone who has had the appropriate training from us can look after it. Because product longevity is key for us, we are committed to helping our customers maintain our products and software throughout their systems’ lifetime. It is our policy to support all new products for a minimum of 10 years, and to ensure, whenever possible, that any future systems or enhancements are backwards compatible. We nevertheless emphasise the importance of ongoing maintenance and servicing, and of NHS Trusts and private healthcare providers ensuring that they only use maintenance contractors who really know the product, and are fully cognisant of the relevant standards and regulations. “To get the best from a staff attack alert system, it is also essential that the staff who will be using it are properly trained. To help address this we have developed a short, but very effective demonstration video that helps new staff to use their ‘triggers’, and to understand what happens when they activate them. Looking forward, as I said at the start of our discussion, we believe that there needs to be far more dialogue between mental healthcare providers to share lessons and experience. The Design in Mental Health Network and its members can, we at Guardian believe, play a considerable part in this process, which ultimately benefits all those responsible for providing a safe, secure, therapeutic, and appropriate environment for care.”


From left: An anti-ligature call push for disabled users; side-door lamps with ‘Reset’, ‘Isolate’, and ‘Staff presence’ functions; a steel-coloured call push button with integral reassurance light; a ceiling receiver; and door control units with both key and card operation.


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