As the NHS grapples with targets to save £20 billion, and BUPA estimating that £1.7b could be saved annually by treating people at home, more and more NHS staff are working alone, out in the community.
Unfortunately, while achieving significant savings, it is inevitable that staff are at increased risk of physical and verbal assault.
An increasing number of NHS staff work alone or in community settings such as patients’ homes or on outreach work. Like all lone workers, they can be vulnerable. There’s an increased risk of physical or verbal abuse and harassment from patients and the public. A Royal College of Nursing survey in 2011 showed that approximately 85% of survey respondents spent more than a quarter of their time working alone, and therefore at increased risk.
According to NHS Protect, there were over 60,000 reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England in 2012/13. This is a worrying 5.8% increase from the previous year. Verbal abuse is particularly prevalent with many staff being affected on multiple occasions. According to the Crime Survey England & Wales (CSEW), 41% of victims of work-related violence were assaulted or threatened twice or more in 2011/12.
The new generation of lone working solutions for the NHS
There is no doubt that staff are increasingly at risk. More and more NHS Trusts & Boards are moving away from the traditional worker safety solutions based on whiteboards, buddy systems and dedicated devices.
And with good reason. Information on a whiteboard can easily be erased. A “buddy” may not always be available should a situation arise where help is required. There are also limitations to the use of dedicated lone worker devices. Staff can often forget to bring this additional piece of hardware with them. Furthermore, they can forget to charge it, so it may not be ready for use.
But change is happening very quickly. The real driver is that as technology advances, the NHS workplace, like every other, is being re-invented. Working arrangements are becoming much more flexible. This is facilitated by the latest mobile working platforms that include scheduling systems, patient records, and proof-of-attendance systems; all based on the smartphones and tablets that more and more trusts are deploying in the search for cost-savings.
Henry Woods, CEO of Guardian24, commented, “We are seeing many NHS Trusts moving their lone working protection to smartphones and tablets, driven by the need to deploy mobile working systems to secure cost savings. Even if they have no immediate plans for mobile working systems, it makes a lot of sense to protect their investment in Lone Working by getting the technology choice right for the future. As an added benefit we find greatly increased employee engagement and higher utilisation of the smart-phone solutions. They are more intuitive, more familiar, more current. These days a smart-phone is what people are using day-in and day-out. Their phone is always there, always charged, always ready.
“That makes it a very safe place to put their Lone Worker safety app. There is so much more we can do to help them when they have a smartphone. We can text them, talk to them, remind them, integrate with other apps on the same device. Going the smartphone route is very compelling, both financially and from a technology point-of-view. ”
Guardian24 leads the way . . .
Guardian24 has been working with NHS Trusts & Boards for over 10 years, helping to protect thousands of NHS staff each year. More recently the company has become the clear leader in “smart” lone worker solutions. And not just in the UK but also in the USA.
“Like other Lone Worker companies, we have worked with feature phones and dedicated devices for many years, and we will continue to fully support our hundreds of customers who for valid reasons still want to use those solutions. What we are talking about here is the trends we are seeing for the near future” added Woods.
Guardian24 allows users to log their daily tasks, get GPS location fixes, and any other important information. Should the user’s safety be compromised they can easily summon help with the press of a button. If they do, the service will immediately begin an escalation process and notify a nominated respondent or emergency services.