The Government of UK plans to issue all Nationa Health Service (NHS) staff with “panic buttons” — personal alarms that would locate their precise position anywhere in the country and allow them to call emergency assistance. The alarms, which will be incorporated into NHS identity cards, would immediately alert an operator and allow staff to communicate directly with police.
Trials of the new device are to start in the new year and, if successful, they are likely to be rolled out across the service. The cards are part of a wider initiative to increase safety in hospitals, GP surgeries and across the NHS in the face of increasing levels of violence. Last year, 116,000 incidents of violence and aggression against NHS staff were reported — an increase of 4,000 on previous figures.
The new device, which is only slightly thicker than a normal ID card, has three buttons on the back. One sends out an emergency alert, the second allows the user to talk to police or an emergency operator, while the third allows the operator to hear and record what the user hears, but without themselves being heard. The alarm records the user’s precise location using satellite technology and alerts the user immediately should he or she go out of monitoring range.
The device, called Identicom, was conceived and developed over a two-year period by two British technology design companies. Connexion 2, a new business, has been formed in South Yorkshire and will study ways in which the technology may develop. Trials will at first involve 150 NHS workers across the country. If the trials are successful, health service managers are keen to introduce the system rapidly across the country. They hope that it will be especially useful for staff undertaking home visits and others working on their own.
John Reid, the Health Secretary, welcomed the new strategy which has been developed by the NHS security management service. “Staff should be confident that their workplace is safe and secure,” he said. Other measures included in the package announced yesterday include a training programme to help staff to deal with violent situations, a national reporting system for physical assaults and a legal protection unit to increase numbers of prosecutions.