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16 November 2010, 05:00
Some of our hospitals are giving their staff who go to visits on their own a special safety device.
The lone worker devices give direct access to police back up in difficult situations, and even record conversations which can then be used as evidence in court.
More than 60 have been given to midwifery staff, community dieticians and other staff members who work away from the main hospital site. The pocket-sized devices have also been handed to staff working on the A&E reception to give them extra reassurance when dealing with potentially difficult patients and visitors.
Around the same size as a normal ID holder, the devices have three buttons on the back. One is activated on arrival at an address when the staff member speaks into the device to give their name and details of where they are.
After the home visit, they then press a second button to confirm they have left. If the button is not pressed, call centre staff will be alerted and will try and reach the individual before calling the police.
The third button calls for immediate help in difficult situations, and allows call centre staff to listen in to the conversation with the patient. They can also record it so that it can be used as evidence in court. If the staff member says an agreed trigger word, the police will be dispatched.
The Norfolk and Norwich hospital use them as well, whilst the James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth are planning on introducing them, although they do have safety measures already in place. Ipswich Hospital also have a range of security measures in place too.
Jim Pretty, security manager at West Suffolk hospital, said: "We take the safety of all of our staff extremely seriously as we want them to be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability without worrying that they will become victims of aggression or abuse.
"These new devices have been introduced as another measure to help us to keep everyone safe, and will hopefully give our colleagues working alone and offsite extra reassurance that help will come quickly on the occasions that it may be needed.
"The devices are operational 24 hours a day, and also support our zero tolerance policy towards violence and aggression by making it easier for us to gather evidence against anyone who is abusive towards a member of our staff. Wherever necessary in these cases, we will then pursue a prosecution through the courts."