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News archive - May 2018

A wake-up call for mental health services

Mental health facilities are, by their very nature, challenging environments in which staff, and patients, can face daily dangers.

Key to minimising any threat to their safety, and to enable staff to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, are modern communication systems.

John Ridpath, director of Guardian Staff Safety Systems, explains: “This country has a well-deserved cherished tradition of belief and dedication between staff and patients, so providing a safe environment is of paramount importance to all healthcare providers.

“Good communications systems are a vital part of this, enabling services to be co-ordinated and ensuring staff can react to any given situation.

“Failure to provide such solutions, as unfortunately proven over the years, will only leave patients and staff in a dangerous situation.”

A plethora of systems are currently available, enabling communication between staff, or from patients to staff.

But one of the key technologies increasingly being specified are staff emergency systems.

Calling for help

These trigger alerts if a member of staff finds themselves in a dangerous situation, for example when they are threatened with violence or if a patient has barricaded themselves inside a room.

“Systems that involve Internet Protocol (IP) technology are most popular nowadays,” said Ridpath.

“That is because this will not only enable the systems to communicate with other buildings via the LAN, but will also enable the product to integrate with other systems such as CCTV, door access solutions and alarm centres etc.

“High-frequency infra-red systems with radio back-up are the most reliable. Radio systems are another option, but these can cause issues when used in rooms with protective walls, for example X-ray departments, where a radio signal may not penetrate.”

Mobile call buttons are also becoming increasingly popular over traditional wall-mounted options.

Ridpath explains: “If a client decides to install a fixed wall-mounted staff attack button in a room, then staff will need to know what they should do if the assailant is standing between them and the button, hence why people are increasingly using mobile triggers.

“They also need to consider what happens if a mobile trigger falls on the floor after activation and that staff member moves to another room. Our latest solutions can track people after activation so this problem can be overcome.”

Location, location, location

These technologies are covered in the Department of Health guidance document, Health Building Note 03-01: Adult acute mental health units, which states: “Staff-to-staff emergency call systems should be capable of accurately identifying the location of the space in which the staff member who activated the call is present and should operate satisfactorily from anywhere within the perimeter of the premises.”

It adds that facilities should be incorporated into the system to record and archive data for future analysis and reporting purposes and states that all staff should carry a single portable device.

Multitone Electronics recently installed its patient and staff protection system at The Retreat, a specialist mental health facility based in York.

Dave Pearce, maintenance supervisor at the unit, told hdm: “Our old system relied on pagers that were notified via a telephone, which were not quick enough in summoning help in emergency scenarios.”

There were also specific practical needs due to the unique nature of the buildings at The Retreat.

Pearce said: “It is an old building with very-thick walls, which would have made the installation of a wired call system highly disruptive to clients and staff, and ultimately more expensive.”

A matter of choice

At the centre of the new system is Multitone’s EkoTek solution.

With location details provided with the alarm, assistance is directed straight to the person in need.

Pearce said: “Beforehand, at one unit within the facility staff had to use the telephone pager system to call for assistance from across the hospital. This could have resulted in a delay in response times.

“Now we can summon assistance immediately when required.”

And Specialist Alarm Services (SAS) is seeing an increasing number of its units being fitted into mental health facilities across the UK.

Both its RED ALERT II staff attack system and the NETWORK II Nurse call system have been specially designed so that staff can easily protect themselves in the event of an emergency or for service users to call for assistance.

“Our staff attack alarm system allows staff to summon assistance by activating a personal alarm transmitter,” explains national sales manager, Rod Foot.

“The exact location of the alarm is then immediately displayed on the LCD indicator panels which are located in key positions throughout the building and/or portable devices such a pagers or smartphones.”

When choosing a system, he advises trusts to consider a number of issues including whether the device can track a member of staff if they are moving throughout a ward or building, is it simple enough to use so that any new staff member can operate it without extensive training, and can it interface with other building and IT systems.

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