Outside war time, it has never been more accurate to classify healthcare workers as being in the frontline than it is today. Yet even before the coronavirus pandemic, many healthcare staff had to deal with people in distress daily. Sadly, with this distress can come violence, threats and abuse. A UK government strategy to crack down on violence against NHS workers was released in November 2018. But the added pressures on the health service during coronavirus lockdown provide additional context. In this blog, we’re looking at some different tactics and techniques that NHS workers use to protect themselves on the ground. And of course, Lone Worker Solutions is on hand to protect healthcare lone workers during the current crisis too.
Healthcare lone workers are vulnerable workers
There’s a wide range of roles in healthcare which involve at least some lone working. There are obvious roles such as health visitors and midwives, who normally visit people in their own homes. There are less obvious ones, such as staff supervising mental health patients on escorted leave or hospital porters. And even in a busy general practice (GP) surgery, healthcare staff are frequently out of sight and earshot of colleagues. During every consultation when the door is closed, doctors and practitioner nurses are technically lone workers.
It goes without saying that the national health system is massive and complex. There are many conditions other than coronavirus which are being treated in hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country. Many of these services are the ones in which healthcare lone workers risk abuse and violence. Furthermore, healthcare workers beyond the NHS may be subject to verbal or physical abuse. There have been reports of increased incidence of anti-social behaviour in pharmacies in recent weeks.
Training healthcare lone workers in self-defence and conflict resolution
It’s worth bearing in mind the sheer volume of interactions that healthcare lone workers have with people. In 2018, over 300 million GP appointments took place in England. Sadly, studies have shown that staff are being subjected to growing levels of physical and verbal abuse from patients. NHS England rightly states that staff should be able to carry out their work without fear. In the face of these rising levels of violence and abuse, there are examples of GP practices giving their employees self-defence training.
For healthcare lone workers, it’s especially important to have a toolkit of skills to call upon in the face of violence and abuse. For individuals in frontline roles, many NHS agencies provide specialist training around conflict resolution. There are a range of tactics which healthcare lone workers can deploy to deal with aggressive behaviour. This can include active listening and empathy, through to reading body language and maintaining a neutral posture. It’s important to stay positive in order to stay safe in the face of disruptive behaviours such as yelling or refusing to follow instructions.
Safe Hub protects healthcare lone workers
When things do get tricky, Safe Hub helps healthcare lone workers in a crisis. Lone Worker Solutions already has many healthcare clients, providing lone worker safety to the sector. What’s more, we’re proud to be part of the NHS Supply Chain Framework which came into effect in September 2018. The 2-year programme is available to the NHS, private-sector healthcare providers, and the wider public sector. The intention is to make procurement of lone worker safety services a simple, quick and efficient process.
Through the Framework, NHS Trusts and other healthcare providers can access the full range of our Safe Hub apps and devices system. For our healthcare clients, the SOS Fob device and smartphone apps are the most popular solution. Together, they give healthcare lone workers all our Safe Hub safety features. From Red Alert emergency help through to reactive Worker Down alerts, we cover every scenario in the sector.
Our pledge to support healthcare lone workers in the frontline
The government’s messaging around coronavirus is clear: “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”. For us, we’re looking to bolster the ability of NHS trusts themselves to implement the second of those instructions. It’s particularly important to protect the healthcare lone workers who are doing so much to support efforts to combat coronavirus. And they deserve the best protection for their ongoing safety, health and wellbeing.
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today to find about more about protecting healthcare lone workers.
Post by Georgia Parsons
Georgia is an Account Manager at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). She introduces new clients to Safe Hub, our award-winning system to protect and monitor lone workers. Safe Hub is a package of buddy, proactive, reactive, broadcast and virtual barrier protection for lone workers. The system supports lone and remote workers on the widest 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.