NAHS conference digest

by Mark Rowe

The National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS) two day conference ran for a second year at the University of Birmingham, Mark Rowe reports. More in the January print edition of Professional Security Magazine.

The get-together closed with a black-tie dinner and awards ceremony that led up to NAHS chairman Roger Ringham presenting the previous day’s speaker and Martyn’s Law campaigner Figen Murray with an award, pictured; and the room stood to applaud. It was a moving reminder both of the esteem that Figen is held in by security people, and that (as in all fields of security management) the work is about people. As is healthcare.

Day one included updates from the regulator the Security Industry Authority’s chief executive Michelle Russell; the SIA (as featured in the November print edition of the magazine) is this month carrying out a consultation on a proposed re-set of the approved contractor scheme, to turn it into ‘business approval’ to reflect the change over the SIA’s 20 years so far, from guarding contractors to a more mixed economy of guard firms and ‘labour providers’. What the SIA has steadfastly kept to is that its badging is of the entry-level officer; if healthcare or any other branch of industry wishes to add training requirements, that’s for them. Hence another day one session was about specific healthcare security manager and officer training, by Claire Humble of NuParadigm, and NAHS exec John Lambert.

Security threats were a thread through the two days. On day one an adviser from the UK official National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) gave an update; on day two, likewise from the counter-terrorism police Nactso.

Arguably the most consequential and newsworthy, in terms of narrow hospital security, was the hour-long presentation by Stephen Groves and Andy Summerbell of NHS England. They set out how the NHS lead body for the country is looking to resurrect security standards as made dormant in 2017, when NHS Protect, the central body that oversaw security management and counter-fraud, was turned into the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, doing away with the security management work. Why is this potentially a big deal for NAHS in particular, and security work in NHS trusts? It may seem baffling that the demise of NHS Protect has left the National Health Service without any gathering of data on (for example) incidents of violence against staff (although a good three-quarters of NHS staff are women and violence against women and girls, VAWG, has been such a policing priority since the murder of Sarah Everard). Also, no national training of security managers, pre-2017 known as local security management specialists (LSMS). After 2017 security had no place in conditions of NHS contracts. If you go into a police station in Leeds or Luton, you know what to expect of the police officers in terms of their training, what their uniform and equipment looks like, and what service they ought to give. Without security in the service conditions of NHS contracts, a patient or visitor to any NHS hospital cannot have that same confidence in consistency.

While views asked for in a session after that NHS England presentation on the whole welcomed the news, one comment to Professional Security was a hope (disappointed) that NHS England would have announced they were more advanced. As for timings, NHS England did warn not to expect much concrete before 2025. Arguably most disconcerting was that the NHS England speakers admitted frankly that they were without the people and funding to advance the work; they said (literally) to the NAHS: “We need you.”

While that might sound jarring, given that the threat to the UK from terrorism is set by MI5 at ‘substantial’, and the NHS has the example of the failed bomb attack on Liverpool Women’s Hospital two years ago, it makes sense, and is accepted by healthcare security people, when you consider the mission of the NHS and its staff is to give care. Given that the NHS has a shortage of midwives and buildings crumbling due to RAAC concrete (as was aired over the two days, given the connections between security management and Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response – EPRR for short), to name only two well-publicised issues, how can security management compete for budget?

Arguably of most interest for non-healthcare security people was a joint talk by NHS England and return speakers, the training and qualifications body BILD, which runs RRN (the Restraint Reduction Network). Briefly, on the problem of violence and aggression in hospitals against staff by visitors and patients; it may well be that those being violent are not malicious, but are ‘good people having a bad day’, as one conference delegate put it; they could be under the stress of facing the loss of a loved one; or they are affected by drugs or alcohol (or withdrawal from them); or they are in poor mental health, or autistic and upset by the unfamiliar. If Security is called in by doctors and nurses, and security officers restrain someone by making them comply by applying pain, that can add to distress all round – naturally to the person being restrained, also to family members and anyone watching, and indeed those doing the restraining.

Hence as Rachael Davies of Sherwood Training set out, training for de-escalation, whether for security officers or medics, that has measurably reduced violent incidents. The training is about showing compassion, treating each case as individual, and (Rachael made plain) is about more than ‘talking somebody down’. Intriguingly, given the need for any unit of security to show (monetary) value, fewer incidents can also mean fewer investigations of staff after complaints raised about unreasonable force, and less litigation (each can be costed).

As if there had to be any reminder of that point – that security officers make a human, even life-saving difference, going with the grain of health (and social) care – it came in the awards, sponsored by the trainers Maybo, presented after the evening dinner.  Categories were (runner-up named first, then winner):

Team – Wrexham Maelor; North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust.

Manager: Pete Haskin, HCRG Care Group; Keira Byrne, The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin.

Officer: Mark Brian Lee, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust; Yakubu Adetunji, Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Innovation: Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust; installer Marlowe Fire & Security, Royal Preston Hospital.

The work for the NAHS 2024 conference, Roger Ringham commented, starts now.

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