Hospital grounds contain a wide range of valuable items; from patient property to medical equipment, technology, and even abusable medications, there are many potential targets for theft.
And with a large footfall on hospital grounds, preoccupied staff, and limited security teams, it is commonplace for items to go missing or be stolen unnoticed. In fact, an estimated £1.25 billion worth of goods is stolen from the NHS every year - money which could have been spent on 40,000 nurses, or 5,000 ambulances instead.
In this article, we will explore NHS guidance on how to keep medical and patient property secure on hospital grounds, and outline the role that security technology plays in preventing thefts.
Keeping Staff Property Safe
NHS Trusts do not accept any responsibility for personal possessions lost or damaged on hospital grounds, and NHS staff have a responsibility to protect their own valuables against thieves.
They can do this by keeping their personal items in an access-restricted staff room, and by using lockers, drawers, and cabinets where provided.
Keeping Patient Property Safe
While NHS Trusts have a policy in place advising patients not to bring valuable property onto hospital grounds, there are many instances where this may be unavoidable - such as in emergency or involuntary admissions, for example.
NHS guidance states that patient valuables must be recorded in a Valuables Logbook, kept in a locked drawer in an office with restricted access, and signed out when collected by the patient or their designated carer.
Installing an access control system is a simple way to ensure that only authorised staff members have access to patient valuables, while it also allows hospitals to check who has entered the valuables office, and when.
This means they can easily identify who was in the valuables office at any particular time, should any patient property go missing. If integrated with a CCTV system, hospitals can also obtain vital video evidence which can be used in court proceedings.
Keeping NHS Property Safe
Valuable medical equipment should be listed in a Logbook and signed out by a member of staff when in use. When not in use, they should be kept in a locked room, drawer, or cabinet.
Installing access controls may help prevent unauthorised individuals from accessing medical equipment too. These can ensure that only authorised members of staff may access the equipment, while also preventing the risk of keys being duplicated or lost.
Keeping Controlled Drugs Safe
Controlled Drugs (CDs) are at especially high risk of theft, either by drug users or traffickers. They can be retailed at high prices due to their purity and safety, making them an appealing target for thieves.
CDs that can be prescribed and administered by medical professionals are separated into 5 schedules:
Schedule 1: Drugs prohibited by Home Office authority, such as lysergide.
Schedule 2: This covers drugs including diamorphine, morphine, nabilone, remifentanil, pethidine, secobarbital, glutethimide, amphetamines, and cocaine. These drugs are subject to the full controlled drug requirements.
Schedule 3: This includes barbiturates, buprenorphine, diethylpropion, meprobamate, midazolam, pentazocine, phentermine, temazepam, and tramadol. These drugs are subject to special prescription requirements and safe custody requirements.
Schedule 4: Part I includes benzodiazepines (except temazepam and midazolam, which are covered in Schedule 3), zalepon, zolpidem, and zopiclone.
Schedule 4: Part II includes androgenic and anabolic steroids, chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), non-human chorionic gonadotropin, somatotropin, and somatrem. Controlled Drug prescription requirements do not apply, and these products are not subject to safe custody requirements.
Schedule 5: This covers low-strength medications that are exempt from all Controlled Drug requirements other than retention of invoices for two years.
All Controlled Drug orders must be made through a Controlled Drug book, using carbon copy paper to make a duplicate copy. Correction fluid should never be used to change orders. CD prescriptions must also be dispatched in a secure, locked, or sealed container, signed for on arrival, and checked by two members of staff.
Additionally, CD prescriptions must be completed by a registered nurse who has been authorised by the Clinical Ward manager, and they must be countersigned. In exceptional circumstances, Controlled Drugs may be ordered by a pharmacist who includes the name of the nurse in charge - this nurse must have delegated responsibility to the pharmacist and countersigned the CD order.
Controlled drugs must be kept in a secure CD cupboard, within a locked treatment room. Ideally, the medication room should be locked using access controls, which can only be opened by authorised staff members using their ID card or key fob.
This stock of CDs must also be checked and recorded at least once weekly.
How Can CCTV Be Used In A Hospital Setting?
In Public Areas
Public areas are defined as areas of the hospital that have unrestricted access - such as hospital grounds, access roads, car parks, entrances and exits, receptions, and waiting areas.
Hospitals can use CCTV as needed in public areas, but will have to provide signage and notification of the CCTV systems as required by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
In Communal Areas
Communal areas are defined as ‘parts of the ward or close healthcare facility shared by all patients’. This may include ward areas, day rooms, dining areas, garden areas, and corridors.
Hospitals must have a legitimate reason for installing CCTV in communal areas, which must support the safety of service users, staff, or the general public.
Legitimate reasons for installing CCTV include:
Prevention of theft and criminal damage
Increasing staff, patient, and public safety
Deterring and/or recording violence and aggression
Deterring and/or recording antisocial behaviour and vandalism
Recording movement on, off, and within the site through access points such as gates and barriers
In Private Areas
Private areas are defined as parts of the hospital where the patient might reasonably expect privacy - such as bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets, and consulting, interview, and seclusion rooms, for example.
Hospitals may legally install CCTV in areas designated as private if a patient has given informed consent, or if monitoring is essential for ensuring the safety of a patient (and/or their attending staff members) detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 for compulsory treatment.
Decisions regarding CCTV installations in private areas must be made in consultation with clinicians while using a robust and documented authorisation process.
Want to know how to keep your hospital protected through access controls, CCTV systems, and other security measures? Contact our expert team!