The latest NHS Staff Survey was recently released to the public, covering all 220 trusts in England and 280 NHS organisations in total.
Completed between September and December 2020, over 1.2 million employees were invited to take the survey, and with a 47% response rate, the survey provides valuable insights into the working lives of our vital NHS workers.
What does the NHS Staff Survey tell us about workplace violence?
Unfortunately, what the survey does reveal is that NHS workers are at considerable risk of abuse and violence. 26.7% of staff experienced one or more incident of bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, their relatives or other members of the public, whilst 14.5% experienced at least one incident of physical violence from the same group in a 12-month period. This shocking rate indicates NHS workers are at much higher risk of violence from the public than the majority of UK workers. According to the HSE, across the entire UK workforce only 1.3% of workers experienced violence or threats of violence in 2018/19.
The incidence of violence against NHS workers was slightly slower in 2020, but has been fairly stable looking at recent years (2019: 14.9%, 2018: 14.6%). As the COVID-19 pandemic was taking place during a significant chunk of the 12-month period leading up to the 2020 survey, it seems likely that levels of violence were quite consistent throughout; even as NHS staff dealt with an overwhelming influx of coronavirus patients and were lauded as heroes by much of the UK public and media.
How can we protect NHS staff?
NHS staff are there to help all of us when we’re in need. This can include people under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, those with a history of criminal behaviour, or those that, due to diagnosed or undiagnosed medical conditions, could be aggressive or unpredictable. Staff could be treating absolutely anyone and danger may not be immediately apparent. They may even find themselves alone with threatening or violent individuals.
It’s not possible to have security staff in every corridor, so giving staff the ability to call for help via a portable attack alarm wherever they are is one way of protecting them.
Introducing the EkoTek staff safety system
Multitone’s EkoTek staff safety system provides staff with either an alarm fob, with an assistance and an emergency alarm button, or a Messenger unit which can both receive alarms and raise them. These devices are compact, IP67 rated and antimicrobial, so they’re discreet and hardwearing, ideal for a medical environment.
Should a member of staff feel threatened, come under attack, or witness a dangerous situation, they can press the red alarm button. The alarm will be transmitted by a mesh-network formed by wireless EkoTek Repeaters positioned around the building, and the location of the closest Repeater to the incident will be transmitted within seconds to designated responders – in this scenario, security staff – carrying Messengers.
Thanks to its mesh-network technology, the failure of a single Repeater would not prevent alarm transmission, and should there be no response initially, the system automatically escalates the alarm. With the use of EkoMS software alongside EkoTek, staff can monitor the whole system on a computer in real-time via live alarm boards and customisable maps of their facility.
For added security, EkoTek portable alarms can be set up with ‘man-down’ functionality that triggers an alarm automatically if a fall is detected. In addition to portable alarm fobs and Messengers, fixed call points can be mounted on walls or desks.
EkoTek is a fully wireless system, meaning it can be installed quickly and at low cost and disruption, and can even be fitted on a temporary basis. EkoTek is already protecting staff at medical facilities through the UK and Ireland, including within Health and Social Care facilities in Northern Ireland and mental health facilities in England.
EkoTek in action
One of our customers in London has installed EkoTek to protect their staff throughout their mental health facility, and this provides a great example of the flexibility of our wireless staff safety solution. With over 200 Repeaters spread across 4 wards, including a high-security area, the system provides complete indoor coverage and outdoor coverage for garden and exercise areas. A Repeater in every room provides pin-point accuracy for security personnel should an alarm be triggered, ensuring a rapid response.
All in all, staff are equipped with over 100 portable Messengers for triggering and receiving alarms, and over 30 alarm fobs for visitors and maintenance staff. Each ward has its own EkoMS alarm board for localised monitoring, and the system is integrated with Multitone i-Message to allow site-wide monitoring and dispatch in the security office. In addition, we were able to integrate EkoTek with the existing wired, wall-mounted alarm button system installed throughout the site, for a unified, seamless safety system.
Thanks to its wireless technology, EkoTek was installed throughout the site with minimal disruption, and the system continues to be expanded as the site changes – protecting staff, visitors and patients.