All eyes on the NAHS conference, where new security management standards for the UK healthcare sector will be announced this week

It’s great to confirm that a brand-new set of security management standards is being introduced for the UK healthcare sector, following news that NHS England has been engaging with the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS). This is a major development. The new standards haven’t been published yet and more details will be announced at the NAHS annual conference this week. What’s already clear is that these new standards will have a very positive effect.

Positive effect

Mandated through the NHS England Standard Contract, they will spur improvements in security and safety provision across the NHS. They will encourage reform and innovation and provide recognised quality benchmarks through accreditation for leaders in the sector to aspire to. Among other things, the standards will incorporate training and competency specifications, as well as security measures for healthcare facilities.

Filling a void

To put this in context, this will fill a void that has existed since 2017 when the NHS Protect security standard was abolished. The longer that void has remained, the more problems we have seen. A major concern is that it has become increasingly difficult to get a clear picture of the scale of violence and aggression against healthcare workers. While there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that the situation has been worsening – and the pandemic has made it worse still – without a national security standard for the sector, and no requirement for detailed reporting, few think there has been enough coordinated focus on this issue. When healthcare workers are abused, physically or verbally, it can take a toll on their physical and mental wellbeing, their confidence, and their ability to do their job. The impact can be measured in increased sickness and absence, and increased costs – but this kind of metric is no replacement for accurate incident reporting.

This is an important area where SafeZone has been helping Trusts to improve: by making it fast and easy for health workers to get emergency assistance, access wellbeing support and also log incidents – reducing administrative burdens – and allowing more seamless processes to be put in place for follow-up, and reporting. And of course that’s just one of the benefits of the multi-function SafeZone platform, which is now equipping healthcare security departments to take a proactive approach to reducing violence everywhere staff are at risk (be that in hospitals, in neighbourhood facilities, or in patients’ homes) by enabling faster coordinated responses, and protecting lone working staff with location pinpointing, improved duress alarms, and direct communications.

Passing on specialist knowledge

Leaders have also argued that standards of security management were at risk of being diluted as other pressures in the sector have been prioritised and as the focus on security moved from a mandatory compliance regime to being a discretionary one. Healthcare security management is a demanding role that requires not just experience and aptitude but specialist knowledge. Without agreed standards, levels of service quality can suffer and the  knowledge and skillsets within the function diminish over time. When ‘wheels’ have to be continually reinvented, progress is so much harder to achieve!

Now it is expected that security  incident reporting will feature as part of the new standards, so not only will that give us a better picture of the scale of the problem that healthcare services are facing, but it will also allow for benchmarking between NHS Trusts to compare performance on certain measures, and to encourage improved innovation and best practice. It’s not clear yet whether the standards will cover requirements for emergency incident management – for example, coordinating invacuations and lockdowns, or sending mass communications to Trust employees – but these are all important to preparedness, and these capabilities should come under increased focus as Trusts look to build resilience.

Easing pressure

Ultimately, taking a more proactive approach to keeping healthcare staff safe should help to ease some of the pressures on overstretched services, and that will benefit everyone. So, all eyes will be on the NAHS conference this week, where news of the new standards will be very welcome. They are the result of much hard work and behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts.

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