Healthcare Security Officer Training – Aegis Protective Services

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Healthcare Security Managers can spend endless time investigating, researching, verifying, comparing and evaluating and then promoting how new security technologies and systems can add value to the organisation. (At least that’s what we hope we are doing!) However, all too often we can forget to attend to the basics.

Ignoring the training needs of security officers is a common factor in security failure.

Our Security Officers are the eyes and ears of the security service and an essential element of any successful security operation.  They are on the ground supporting, reassuring, deterring, apprehending, negotiating, consoling, responding, resolving, recording and reporting…the list goes on. They are the difference between success and failure.

“One well trained security officer is better than two well-intentioned but poorly trained security officers” is an old adage but it’s never been more true than it is today!

A healthcare security officer role is one of the most challenging and demanding within the security profession and it calls for a very broad skill set. On a daily basis, healthcare security officers are called to manage emotional, frightened, desperate, vulnerable people and volatile situations. The larger the hospital, the more complex and diverse the kind of situations they can encounter, with those working in inner city hospitals and mental health facilities facing the biggest challenges. In each case, failing to make the correct decision could have disastrous and potentially even lethal outcomes and put NHS Trusts and managers at risk of complaints and litigation.

Something to bear in mind too, is that an inevitable consequence of year on year rationalisation, re-direction and reduction of police resources nationally has been delayed emergency response times. This effect has required hospital security functions (particularly inner city hospitals) to become more self-reliant.  In other words, healthcare security officers are increasingly being called to cope with situations that previously would have been handed over to the police.

One of the most challenging aspects of a healthcare security officer’s role is performing their ‘duty of care’ to assist in situations where a person’s behaviour makes it necessary to relieve them of their responsibility for themselves by physically holding, controlling and/or restraining them. It is a high risk process. According to National Patient Safety Data, one in every eight instances of physical intervention during 2009-12 resulted in an adverse outcome. Inadequate or unsuitable (i.e. outdated/outmoded) training in physical restraint skills drastically increases the risk of an adverse outcome, complaints, litigation and even prosecution.  It can also have a damaging impact on the organisation’s reputation.

Our health service is committed to patient focus and ‘improving the patient experience’ is reflected in every NHS Trusts strategy. The importance of patient experience cannot be over stated. With Trusts now competing directly against one another for funding, the patient experience really does matter and this includes how safe patients feel whilst in NHS care and how they were treated by staff and security officers. Healthcare security officers are relied on to act as ‘ambassadors’ of the NHS Trust where they are employed. But, have they been suitably trained in the ‘customer care’ skills they need to achieve expectations? Do they even know about the ‘bigger picture’?

Then, there is the issue of clinically related challenging behaviour (CRCB). CRCB is a significant problem in the NHS. NHS Protect have reported that 79% of reported physical assaults against NHS staff in England in 2012-13 were classed as ‘unintentional’ due to clinical factors. In other words, prosecution would not result in conviction because of the absence of the necessary ‘deliberate intent’ (mens rea). This translates to healthcare security officers (frequently) have to manage and resolve CRCB situations without being able to rely on the threat of prosecution as a deterrent to bad behaviour. Successfully accomplishing this aim calls for specialist skills – and additional training.

Healthcare security officers also need training that gives them an understanding of why so many people can behave (often quite uncharacteristically) in bizarre, extraordinary, disruptive, aggressive and threatening ways when they come to healthcare settings. For example, mental ill health, dementia, learning difficulties, drug addiction, bereavement. Without it, they can’t really be expected to always respond in a calm, tolerant, ‘patient centred’ way when dealing with them. Well can they?

Healthcare security officers cannot be expected to diagnose mental health issues. However, it is important they are able to recognise the characteristic signs of mental ill health and learning difficulties, so that they can ensure their attitude and approach to these patients is always appropriate and directly reflective of each patient’s individual needs.

So, the question is “What training can we provide?”

SIA training provides basic training but has proved simply inadequate given the complexity of the role.

Over the past two years the NAHS have worked in partnership with security training expert Jim O’Dwyer of AEGIS Protective Services, to develop a new industry-standard training programme specifically for healthcare security officers.

We specified that we wanted the new training to be the equivalent of the SIA training and in addition include further training that reflects the scope, complexity and responsibilities of a healthcare security officer role. The ‘additional training’ elements more than doubled the training content of SIA Security Guard Training!

We also wanted to address the need for suitable physical intervention skills training, as for some time now we have been expressing concern about the variations in training standards and content across the NHS.

The result is a comprehensive suite of three training courses:

  1. Healthcare Security Officer Training
  2. Healthcare Security Officer ‘Top Up’ Training (for those who are already SIA qualified.)
  3. Physical Intervention & Restraint Skills

The Healthcare Security Officer Training course creates a new benchmark in training within healthcare security and really does answer the question ‘What training should we provide?’

The ‘Top Up’ course is for those who are already SIA trained, enabling them to upgrade to the new training standard, avoiding the expense of training duplication.

The Physical Intervention & Restraint Skills course is designed to instil a philosophy and practice of physical intervention as an absolute last resort. The training informs about important factors to consider when deciding whether to intervene physically in a situation and equips security officers with effective, non-pain-compliance, practical skills to employ if physical intervention or restraint becomes necessary. Unlike the SIA physical intervention skills training course for Door Supervisors, the AEGIS course does not stop short of horizontal physical restraint and includes how to restrain a person on a bed, on a trolley and the floor and the safe use of Emergency Restraint Belts (ERB). The Training also incorporates the practical skills needed to carry out Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (CJIA) responsibilities.

The AEGIS Healthcare Security Officer Training Programme stands as a model of best practise.

The NAHS fully endorses this new training. NAHS President ‘Peter Finch said:  ‘’We are delighted to have been involved with the development of this training package…our security officers are our first responders, they are our eyes and our ears of the security operation. It is essential that they are appropriately trained to protect our facilities and staff from harm. This qualification will go a long way in achieving that aim’’.

NAHS Executive Director Lee Sweeney is also the Security Team Leader at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trusts and is currently enrolled on the AEGIS Healthcare Security Officer Training course. Lee said: ‘’There is quite frankly nothing like this out there, the detail and scope of this training course really goes some way in reflecting the complex reality of the healthcare security officers role. Going through the modules as a student I found myself testing my own knowledge quite considerably. I am really impressed with how wide ranging the subject modules are and how in depth they are. It really does condense a lot of information that is role specific into one place. The fact that the course can be completed online will significantly aid delivery of this training across security teams that work rotational shifts. My aim is to get all our security officers enrolled on the course as soon as possible’’.

Other NAHS members have also enrolled onto the AEGIS Healthcare Security Officer Training course and they’ve all echoed Lee Sweeney’s comments finding the course comprehensive, very informative and positive.

The NAHS is keen to support AEGIS to help improve the way healthcare security is both thought of and delivered.

For more information about the training please click here

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