They say in showbusiness that you find out how many friends you have when your career’s going down; and quite often the answer is, not many. The cutting of much of the work of NHS Protect, the National Health’s security and counter-fraud body (page 23), has provided the same insight. There’s been grumbling all along by the hospital security managers on the front line, about NHS Protect at the centre, while seeing the point of it. For those of you not to do with healthcare, it’s worth saying how important NHS Protect (it’s had other names) has been. It was behind training of general NHS staff in conflict management – one of the biggest pieces of work of our time, of any sort, let alone in private security. The cuts to NHS Protect may be a signal to hospitals that they can not bother about security in general. Just as the early Tony Blair government thought it a good idea to set up a central body to do security management in the NHS, so in another generation someone might have the same bright idea and build it up again.
Last month I queried the idea for making more of the counter-terror Project Griffin, by the consultant Adrian Jones. He’s not been put off by that – and nor should he have been; as this magazine, and a healthy and secure society, are all about free debate of ideas. Adrian has written a frightening scenario of how the next Paris-style suicide terror attack might overwhelm a city (page 32). It’s frightening because it’s believable. He makes the case for a ‘Civil Assistance Organisation’ (CAO) to help the hard-pressed authorities at such an hour, in the fire-fighting (metaphorical and perhaps literal). The CAO would do such things as first aid, and staff cordons, one of the ideas behind Griffin. I can see the need for such a body of trained and willing volunteers; but can’t see it happening. The authorities would point volunteers towards the police special constabulary. I read the other day an uncomfortable statistic (uncomfortable for Mayor of London Boris Johnson for one) that the number of specials in the capital has fallen sharply. Anyway I look forward to seeing Adrian at the Counter-Terror Expo this month and talking with him further.
Another major event this month is the ASIS Europe conference, in London (another feather in the UK chapter’s cap). The host as ASIS UK chairman is Dave Clark. To get a flavour of his work, as head of security at the Francis Crick Institute, especially if you can’t catch his talk at the event, see from page 41. His employer is working on a cure for cancer. I happen to think that’s beyond mankind’s ability. But having seen my father die of cancer this time two years ago, I will be glad if they can prove me wrong.