Private security officers should be utilised throughout the NHS to combat crime and provide support in the wake of major incidents. That is the view of NHS security specialist Peter Finch, security advisor for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and chairman of the National Association for Healthcare Security.
Speaking at IFSEC 2013, his presentation entitled ‘Healthcare Security: the procurement and management challenges’ outlined the threats to hospitals and the challenges posed from a range of security threats, including the risk of terrorism, theft and abuse of staff.
Across the NHS it is estimated there are assets worth around £42 billion that need to be protected, with huge scope for incidents as 1 million patients come through hospital doors every 36 hours across the UK.
Hospitals are facing huge budget cuts, with the health services required to deliver £20 billion in savings between 2011 and 2015 – meaning 4 per cent savings year-on-year must be delivered. Despite budgets being stretched there remains a need to be robust enough to deal with risks and counter the threats, Finch said.
He claimed proactive security and effective risk management systems – including identifying and assessing risks and putting systems and procedures in place – is the best possible protection for people, property and assets.
Finch warned that “no organisation can consider itself exempt from the threat of a blast from a bomb” and hospitals can be left vulnerable should they face hundreds of casualties in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
The NHS security specialist claimed private security officers must be deployed to augment protection in the wake of major incidents, where everyday security resources could be insufficient to deal with such an event.
“Although private security officers do not have powers of arrest, they can provide substantial numbers for securing facility access and there are opportunities for manned guarding companies here,” he said. “Security officers could be posted to stop casualties and others gaining entry and contaminating other patients and staff in the event of a chemical or biological attack.
“We need to be prepared to deal with mass casualties from terrorist strikes, including bomb blasts like those in Boston recently or from chemical, biological and radiation injury or a natural disaster or breakout of infectious disease. All these have the potential for a healthcare facility to be over-run and potentially put out of action and security plays a key role here.”
Finch warned that security throughout the healthcare sector should not be regarded as “a standalone function” and more of a partnership activity with shared functions and responsibilities. He said successful training of private security officers would also offer huge benefits to the NHS to deal with the threats of theft and abuse.
He said: “Without doubt one well-training security officer is worth two well-intentioned but poorly-trained security officers. Our security officers are our 24/7 eyes and ears on the ground and it is essential that they are appropriately trained and equipped.
“Unfortunately, it is my view that our healthcare security officers are neither as well trained or equipped as they should be to carry out the increasing demands that are placed on them. The training industry and equipment suppliers could have a significant role to play here.”