Behind Closed Doors: lone working in GP surgeries

Behind Closed Doors: lone working in GP surgeries

The following appeared on the British Journal of Medical Practice. An excerpt from a blog written by a trainee nurse who at the time was working at a GP surgery in Northumberland.

“One minute I was signing prescription repeats and the next I was cowering on the floor, blood streaming down my face unable to comprehend what had just happened."

A man [had run] into the surgery and entered my room. He sat down momentarily; enough time for me to sense that something was very wrong. He punched me across the face knocking me to the ground. He heard a commotion outside and so locked us in the room. He then continued to punch me as I tried to protect myself. There was no time to consider using the panic alarm, which was out of my reach. However, my screams alerted the other practice members who unlocked the door, and my GP tutor managed to pull the man away. I later learnt that he was known to the psychiatric services but had stopped taking his medication. He had been playing a video game and felt ‘trapped’ inside it. His aim, he later admitted, was to kill me. Indeed, without the brave response of my trainer, it could have been much worse.

The psychological consequences of the attack have been hard to deal with. I had useful support from my trust and from a psychologist. Unfortunately seven weeks off work did have an impact on my foundation training, however, despite having two black eyes during the GP assessment process I still secured my first choice job — in general practice.”

Source: British Journal of Medical Practice

This horrifying incident happened in 2007 but worryingly, not much seems to have changed in the decade since. Official figures released by the hospital safety advisory body NHS Protect showed that in 2015-16 there were 70,555 assaults on doctors, nurses and other health service workers. That figure works out at a shocking average of 193 workers attacked every single day. This is across the entire health profession, but it still shows the disproportionate level of personal risk for lone workers in that sector. So how can a lone medical worker safeguard themselves if things take a sudden turn for the worse?

Quick fixes for GP surgery staff safety

* Look at the layout of the GP or consulting room. Having the patient between the worker and the door means that the patient ultimately has control of the room. Look into ways of rearranging the room, so the GP or nurse is closest to the door should an incident arise.

* Is there a need for a lock on the door? It could end up doing more harm than good as an unwieldy or stiff lock can waste vital seconds in an emergency situation. If the door is closed and there are curtains for privacy, it may not be necessary to lock the door for a consultation.

* If someone is working down a long corridor away from others, or in a remote part of the building, consider installing a panic alarm within arm’s reach (i.e. under the desk), so he or she can alert colleagues if they feel in personal danger.

How Safe Hub helps protect GP practice staff

One particular area of concern in the health and care sector is the potential for patients (and those around them) to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Or a patient could be in a heightened emotional or mentally unstable state and be unpredictable or volatile. Ideally suited for GP practices and Federations, Safe Hub is an award-winning package of emergency and reactive protection for lone workers. Safe Hub works on a wide range of specialist personal safety devices and there’s even an app.

All of our dedicated safety devices and apps are easily accessible and feature a prominent emergency button to trigger a Red Alert. SOS Fob and SOS Button both put the care worker into direct, two-way contact with the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). Both are highly wearable and perfect for attaching discreetly to a lanyard or ID badge. SOS Fob can also be worn on an arm or belt holster, and the SOS Button can be worn on a specially designed wristband.

Alternatively, the Safe Hub App allows staff to use their own mobile device to access the ARC if they prefer. Staff at the ARC will access the user’s GPS location and their personal escalation protocol and can direct emergency services to the worker’s exact location in the fastest time possible. Last but not least, the Worker Down feature monitors the movement of a health worker's handset and orientation, generating an alert with the ARC if the handset registers an impact.

Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today.

Post by George Stavrinidis

George is the Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.

About Safe Hub

Safe Hub is an award-winning package of emergency, buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. Safe Hub supports lone and remote workers on the broadest possible array of BS8484:2016 Gold Certified devices, including Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, BlackBerrys, standard mobiles, PCs, intrinsically safe devices, specialist personal safety devices and satellite phones.