The NHS is looking at how the Private Security Industry Act will affect it.
The NHS is looking at how the Private Security Industry Act will affect it, and revising training standards of its security staff generally, a healthcare security conference heard. On private security industry regulation, Department of Health Minister Lord Hunt pointed out that the Act does not cover ‘in-house’ staff. The SPG is reviewing the implications, he said, and training standards generally for security staff. Lord Hunt told a healthcare security symposium at the Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds, set up by the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS). The Security Policy Group (SPG) based at NHS Estates, responsible for making sure that security is an integral part of the design process. The NAHS is represented on that group, which is also involved in developing services via the controls assurance mechanism, Lord Hunt said. ‘Security management is one of 21 controls assurance standards which cover significant organisational risk areas. These standards summarise relevant laws and Department of Health guidance. In short, they are designed to ensure clincial quality can be met within the right environment of care.’ The SPG is also updating the NHS Security Manual, now 10 years old. Lord Hunt, who said he was involved in the production of the original manual, said: ‘We are all well aware of how technology has moved on in that time.’ We know many trusts employ private security companies to provide the majority or whole of their security services and the introduction of this Act provides a base line for these services. In the meantime, I am determined that security is taken seriously throughout the health service, however it is provided. One important development is to make sure that every trust has a board member identified with responsibility for security, as well as a director identified to manage the service. With so many changes occurring within trusts it is necessary to ensure the appropriate points of contact. Chief executives of trusts now have specific responsibilities as the named authorising officer for conducting investigatory surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. These responsibilities will raise the profile of security in the minds of chief executives, which is no bad thing, and the Department of Health is helping chief executives comply with this new legislation by making available to them specialist training through our Counter Fraud Training Service. Many of you will have come across this group doing an excellent job for the NHS. I want to make much stronger links between this area and security." ‘A smile costs nothing, but it can deflect anger and turn aggression into co-operation. These are important lessons for everyone in the service, certainly not just security staff. A key role for security staff is that of peacekeeper rather than policeman.’ Lord Hunt placed security as part of the vital, basic services of the NHS. ‘Patients want healthcare buildings which feel warm, comfortable and secure. They want to feel that they are welcome – not that they are a nuisance. They want to feel safe – not constantly anxious and on edge. As a result of the NHS plan, for the first time how NHS employers treat staff will be part of the core performance measures.’ That treatment includes zero tolerance of violence against staff, Lord Hunt said – which will make staff feel safer, and in turn help them to help patients feel safer. He added: ‘In the last few years, work has been undertaken in maternity departments to protect against abduction of babies. Anyone who has had a baby knows how anxious those few early days are. The last thing parents need is an added worry about their child’s safety. So across the NHS now, we see systems where babies can be tagged so that they cannot be taken out of the building. We see secure entrances and CCTV which mean that visitors can be monitored and their entry controlled. A few years ago these systems were rare ‘ now they are commonplace. We have also seen developments in A & E departments to reduce and manage aggression. A major plank of this is preventative. So increasingly, departments have separate access not just for children, who may be distressed, but also for patients who might be disruptive. Controlling entrance in this way prevents other patients being affected by anti-social behaviour, and increases the feeling of safety for all. In some departments, there is a police presence, imporving patient safety while demonstrating joined-up working across the public sector.’ He went on: ‘Theft in general is another major problem within the service. It is particularly distrubing for a patient arriving at a hospital to read a notice stating that the trust will not be held liable for the loss of personal possessions or cash. This is an area where we can address concerns. Integral secure boxes as part of a bed or a locker with a personal key or a unique code entered by the patient could make a big difference. There are already techniques available to protect trust property, especially portable equipment such as computers and TVs. If we can achieve it for turst property, we must be able to do the same for patient property. We have got to make the connection between security and what we are seeking to do for patients. The NHS is here to provide a service, and patients want a caring service, and part of that is protecting property. But there remains a conflict between the concept of free access to a public building and the need for security and privacy for staff and patients. We must tread that delicate line carefully. New technology with good planning can achieve separation of public, patient and private areas with access control systems, CCTV and intelligent reader devices. GPS systems can precisely locate the position of individuals within a building or in the grounds of a hospital. Chip devices can locate NHS property as well as achieving a rapid electronic inventory of property.’ The government is determined to see zero tolerance of violence against NHS staff, Lord Hunt stressed, referring to the official website of good practice.