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October 21, 2022

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Healthcare security

A ship without a compass…? Why healthcare security managers are keen to fix problems caused by de-regulation

In the second article of the series, Roger Ringham, Chair of the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS), examines how the sector can look to combat the impact of de-regulation on security management standards.

Roger Ringham, Chair of the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS)

You can read Roger’s first article of the series, below:

Outside the healthcare sector, it’s not widely understood that standards for security management are being allowed to slide.

That’s because the rules governing our sector were relaxed in 2017, when NHS Protect was disbanded. Up until that point – and for many years before that, under the former NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Authority – anyone working in security management for the health service had to be vetted, trained and accredited to clearly defined standards.

In practice, that meant everyone who took on the role of local security management specialist had to complete an NHS course, and get accredited via the University of Portsmouth. I undertook this training myself after a long career with the police, and I found it invaluable.

Accreditation not only prepared people to work in our sector, getting them up-to-speed whatever their backgrounds, it gave them access to unique resources and information that helped drive consistent standards across the service.

At the same time there was an obligation on every NHS Trust to participate, every year, in detailed reporting around violence and aggression against staff. That obligation also ended in 2017 and, as I wrote in my last article for IFSEC Global, the result is that we don’t currently have the reliable, base-line data we need to steer effective risk reduction strategies across the NHS.

I’ll use a naval metaphor to describe the current situation: we’ve been left like a ship in the middle of the ocean without a compass or a bearing to steer by.

Ship-NoDirection-CoreyFord-AlamyStock

Image: CoreyFord/AlamyStock

“We’ve been left like a ship in the middle of the ocean without a compass or a bearing to steer by…”


Reducing resilience at the worst possible time

Things would be a lot worse if it were not for the professionalism of my peers and colleagues leading and working in security departments – most remain highly committed, and there are still efforts to network and share information through local affiliations.

But as time goes on, my fear is that the consistently high standards that were built up over many years are beginning to slip, and that we’re not keeping up with the new challenges we all face.

This risks reducing NHS preparedness and resilience at a time when the service is under huge stress already.

Take the example of the pandemic. When it struck, NHS trusts were asked to set up mass vaccination centres and to vaccinate the entire population within specified age groups in a short space of time.

FRG-OxfordVaccine-21That policy had consequences, in terms of risk: it triggered animosity among a small but active number of conspiracy theorists, leading to some hospitals and facilities being infiltrated, staff being harassed, and threats being made; at one stage, over several months, the vaccines were also targeted by thieves, either trying to get drugs for themselves or to exploit the desperation of others; PPE, which has previously been of little apparent value, was suddenly in high demand and targeted by thieves.

And while all this was going on, there was little to no national guidance, no central intelligence gathering and no clear communications. Trusts were left to find their own answers, and security departments were left learning the same lessons, duplicating the same mistakes, and just doing their best to adapt.

Collaboration will be essential to innovation

Looking ahead, we can be certain that there will be other crises. And we know that risk management is not a static discipline, and that we have to constantly learn and adapt.

I mentioned innovation. It’s really encouraging that we are seeing new solutions being developed, new practices and technologies being trialled and adopted. But the benefits of innovation need to be shared, and with a service as large and varied as the NHS, that cannot be left to chance.

Today, it’s falls to local affiliation groups, and to national associations like NAHS to encourage best practice. So, in the absence of a central authority, we’ll be pressing forward with that agenda at the forthcoming NAHS conference.

The fact that this will be our largest and best-attended gathering for years, with leaders from across the sector taking part, reflects widespread agreement that there is currently a void to fill. We have vital work to be getting on with, and a lot to talk about.


About the author

Roger Ringham is Chair of the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS). He is a Board Director of NAHS Limited and Chair of the South West Region Security Management Group (SWSMG). Roger is also an Assistant Director for Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, where he is the Head of Service for Security and Fraud Experts (SAFE).

 

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