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mental health & dementia
News archive - September 2018
Imagine this scenario: You book a night in a hotel, check in, and are told you can’t have a key.
If you want to lock your room you will need to return to reception and someone will accompany you back and lock it for you.
Few people would stay given this restriction.
Yet, in mental health settings, this is an extremely-common policy for patients.
Philip Ross, commercial director at Safehinge Primera, explains: “If you couldn’t secure your own space, would you ever want to leave your room, even to get someone to lock it?
“But this is common practice in mental health units where people are already in a disturbed and fragile state of mind and then do not have the simple means of securing their own space.
“This insecurity can lead to conclusions that someone else has been in their room, perhaps stolen something, when it’s just been misplaced under the duvet. A lack of confidence in security has a significant effect on people.
“This is how easily arguments can flare up and there is the potential of physical fights between service users.”
In mental health environments across the UK mechanical key-operated locks are still much more common that you would imagine.
And patients are not given keys as these could be used as tools to tamper with locks or as weapons to cause harm.
But there is growing acceptance that giving mental health patients increased control over their environment can reduce anxiety and incidents of violence. In fact, it is increasingly being commented on in formal Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections as a restrictive practice.
Therefore, modern access control solutions are growing in popularity.
Ross said: “The trend in mental health units is to try and normalise the environment as much as possible.
“Electronic access control systems, such as smart doorsets, are helping with this.”
Modern electronic keys are designed to be ligature resistant and are coupled with wristbands or fobs, rather than mechanical keys. This enables staff to make changes more easily in order to control who can access which areas.
Ross said: “We have been involved in a number of projects where mental health operators have asked us to upgrade bedroom doors with electronic access control solutions in order to give patients more independence.
“It’s much more empowering for patients and, with live audit trail and remote control of permissions, it’s much easier for clinical staff to monitor and control.”
The very-latest solutions are wireless, meaning they can be retrofitted within a live ward environment.
Ross explains: “Traditional electronic systems are hardwired and the biggest problem is retrofitting them. It’s almost impossible on a live ward, restricting these systems to new builds or major refurbishments.
“Our latest systems use wireless technology with battery-operated locks on the doors.
“These are far easier to install and maintain as you don’t have to chase in or deal with hidden cables. They also have a typical battery life of between 1-2 years, so it’s very much the direction we are seeing the market going in.”
Safehinge Primera locksets are also designed with a unique override feature, ensuring staff can always gain access during an emergency - something every mental health facility is seeking, yet few electronic locks provide.
Ross said: “A lock will commonly be tampered with to prevent staff access and to give a patient more time and a greater chance of success in causing damage or harming themselves or others.
“It’s about providing security, but also always giving the ability to override the lockset and for staff to be able to gain access in an emergency.
“That’s what is unique about our products. Patients can have their own key, but at all times this can be safely overridden by staff.”
He added: “It’s the age-old problem in mental health that people go with what they know - mechanical locks - but we are starting to see more mental health providers adopting electronic locksets and recognising the positive impact these systems can have.”