There is no doubt that community nurses are a valued and important part of today’s society. Whether providing healthcare to house bound patients or carrying out new birth visits, they provide comfort and support to those who need it most.
However, this type of work often requires community nurses to visit patients’ homes alone or carry out on-to-one consultations in a clinical room, and like all lone working, this can leave health and social care workers vulnerable and open to abuse.
A 2015 survey carried out by RCN, found that 63% of the 1,324 members surveyed have reported abuse while lone working over the last two years. With these attacks ranging from verbal to physical abuse, the threat leaves many nurses feeling ‘alone, afraid and under attack’.
In response to consistent findings over the past year, RCN have produced a guide for employees working alone in health and social care.
Lone worker alarms and monitoring
Amongst suggesting staff training and risk assessments, the guide emphasises the importance of lone worker alarms and monitoring.
“The RCN believes that all at risk nursing staff should have access to an effective means of raising the alarm…the RCN is aware that mobile phones can be enabled with specialist software, GPS and apps to support lone workers at the press of a button. Tablets and laptop computers can also be enabled with this technology.”
With lone worker alarms and apps like StaySafe already being recognised by RCN and NHS Protect as being effective in reducing risk, it is surprising that only 13% of those surveyed had been provided access to one. The failure to provide such devices boils down to financial cost. Despite the Department of Health funding 30,000 workers with lone worker protection devices in 2009, this was cut only three years later. Due to the rise in smartphone and tablet ownership however, apps have become an accessible and affordable way of providing an extra level of protection.
One survey participant discussed an incident in which a family refused to let her leave their home following a visit. The nurse’s employers remained unaware of the frightening situation and the nurse was left to deal with it on her own. Situations like this one can be easily resolved with the help of StaySafe. A feature on the app allows lone workers to log working sessions such as home visits. Failure to check-in at the end of the session will send an alert to the employer allowing them to identify their location and send support.
Not only is the app designed to track lone workers as they work, but an emergency panic button can be activated to alert the employer of any potential threats. Additional features such as discreet panic and duress pin, are also effective during sensitive meetings or when raising an alert while faced with a threatening client.
The need for lone worker alarms and protection apps is clear. Rolling out StaySafe to health and social care employees could not only be vital in reducing risk, but will provide both lone workers and their employers with the confidence and peace of mind to continue providing the community with a much needed service.