frustrations about delays in diagnosis and treatment on the NHS front line staff.

As in any other place of work, staff in NHS hospitals and care facilities must have the fundamental right to feel safe at work. It is the duty of each employer to take all necessary measures to make the workplace as safe as possible. Assaults not only threaten the physical and mental wellbeing of healthcare workers; they are also, as a direct consequence, responsible for a huge number of days of unplanned absence costing the NHS large amounts each year in disruption and agency fees. In addition, these unplanned absences increase the pressure on the remaining staff, resulting in yet more stress.

No measures or techniques can guarantee that zero assaults will happen. However, case studies show that there are proven techniques by which the number of serious incidents can be dramatically reduced.

One important factor is staff training. The presence of a member of staff with the correct training and experience can oſten prevent an incident or at least avoid a situation escalating as far as a personal attack.

Patients detect the confidence of well trained and experienced staff and consequently feel reassured, taken more seriously and are, as a result, calmer. Meanwhile, less experienced staff members feel less pressured to deal with situations they are not fully prepared for.

New technology is oſten touted as the solution to all problems. It isn’t always but, in this case, it has a very important and effective role to play.

While many measures like CCTV cameras and access control systems help to decrease the risk of violence in the facility overall, there will always be situations where these are just not enough. A more personalised protection system is needed.

Many health and care facilities now have a personal attack alarm system installed. Small devices, worn directly on the person can be used to trigger an alarm. These devices come in different forms either as part of the workers’ ID badges or in the shape of a cylinder no larger than a marker pen, oſten attached to the worker’s belt.

Pinpoint develops and manufacturers of personal attack alarm systems and its systems are installed in a wide variety of workplace environments globally. Highly customisable, the user organisation can choose where each type of alarm will sound and exactly who gets notified. The set-up can be tailored to each facility and team.

Not every incident will necessarily develop into a major crisis, especially if intervention happens early. In fact, experience has shown that many potential incidents can be readily diffused by the ‘unexpected appearance’ of another health worker that the threatened worker has covertly summoned via their body-worn attack alarm. In more escalated situations, by visibly rather than covertly operating the device, the patient is alerted that the crash-team has been summoned which again can oſten diffuse the situation.

It has also been found that the simple fact of patients being able to see personal attack devices and knowing

that healthcare workers can summon immediate help can significantly reduce their propensity to become physically or verbally aggressive.

Millennium Care is a specialised care home for people with learning difficulties and complex needs in North Yorkshire. It has first-hand experience of the advantages of a personal attack alarm system.

“It is unrealistic to think that assaults will completely cease to happen in

many working environments, but the technology exists to seriously reduce the number of attacks and minimise the severity when attacks do sadly occur.”

Rachel Blackburn, Head of Care Homes for Millennium Care, explained why they like the Pinpoint System: ”Thankfully, due to the reliability and speed of action of the Pinpoint System, most incidents now only require ‘help to de-escalate’ alarms.

“True emergency calls are much more infrequent now, but when those do happen, our Pinpoint System raises the alarm with a combination of audible alarms, graphic displays in strategic locations, together with flashing over- door lights in the corridor outside the room containing the emergency. All of which combine to ensure the crash team is guided to the correct room within seconds. This results in less danger to our staff, less danger for our other residents and, in fact, because situations can be defused much more quickly, far less likelihood of the other residents themselves becoming disturbed.”

In addition to monitoring the body-worn personal alarms, the Pinpoint System can be integrated with existing security products like CCTV and access control.

Martyn Perry, Head of Programme Management Office and Assistive Technology Strategy Lead at St. George’s Hospital in Stafford, rapidly saw the value of the technology: “We needed a staff alarm system that linked into existing security systems elsewhere in the hospital. Pinpoint’s technology provided that.

“On the wards, our staff have control screens in the central ward office. We also have a paging system from a different provider, but Pinpoint had no problem linking their alarm system to that. Our previous system only worked with its own proprietary components so we couldn’t interlink it.”

It is unrealistic to think that assaults will completely cease to happen in many working environments, but the technology exists to seriously reduce the number of attacks and minimise the severity when attacks do sadly occur. - 27 -

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