How to Protect your Healthcare Staff from Increasing Violence During Covid-19

Nov 11, 2020 | Healthcare, Safety and Security, Workplace Violence

There has been an outpouring of support for healthcare workers in the UK throughout 2020. The pandemic has changed the way people think of frontline workers and led to the creation of many campaigns designed to provide support and help for members of staff in the healthcare industry.

However, 2020 has also been an extremely challenging year for the NHS and wider healthcare sector. The pandemic itself has had serious impacts on care provision, and many areas are still identifying ways in which Covid-19 will affect them.

One key area that has unfortunately seen a sharp rise during the pandemic is workplace violence. A common issue even before the added stress of a pandemic, workplace violence is an increasingly worrying issue for many healthcare employers.

With mask-wearing requirements and social distancing measures in place and requiring enforcement, coupled with the increased pressure on the healthcare sector, violence in the workplace is something you really need to be thinking about.

Increasing violence and healthcare: the statistics

So, is Covid-19 causing an increase in incidents of workplace violence? It’s still early, but recent statistics and anecdotal evidence points to yes.

  • While the NHS Staff Survey for 2020 hasn’t been released yet, in the 2019 survey 9% of staff said they had experienced physical violence in the past year, up from 14.6% the year before.
  • For ambulance staff, the 2019 figure was 34% – a worrying trend as emergency healthcare becomes even more essential.
  • An article published in The Lancet in May described anecdotal evidence of increased attacks in healthcare workplaces during the pandemic.
  • Mental health is a crucial issue during Covid-19, with lockdown measures affecting everyone. The 2019 NHS Staff Survey saw 20.2% of staff working in Mental Health or Learning Disability Trusts affected by workplace violence, an increase of over 5% compared to the average across the NHS.
  • New mask wearing guidelines are being cited as a common trigger for the increased workplace violence issues being reported.
  • As the pandemic continues to take its toll, there’s a lot more stress, uncertainty and anxiety around, especially in the healthcare sector. Are you prepared for patients with potentially much shorter fuses?

What are your workplace violence responsibilities as a healthcare employer?

As an employer, it’s essential that you understand your responsibilities to deal with and prevent workplace violence.

There are serious legal obligations on you as an employer to prevent threats and violence against your employees. You should be addressing this as part of your health and safety policies.

Within the NHS, as a response to the challenges of Covid-19, NHS England have stressed a “statutory duty of care”, and announced that by December 2020 an NHS violence reduction standard will be launched.

The Health and Safety Executive European guidance on preventing workplace harassment also applies. This details a number of key employer responsibilities, such as providing clear information on your policies to members of staff, explaining the support that’s available, and demonstrating that you’ve taken steps to prevent or control any risks.

There are lots of other legal obligations that apply across all industries and sectors. Find out more in our article on what responsibilities employers have to prevent workplace violence.

Tips and advice on preventing workplace violence

So, how do you take steps to prevent workplace violence as an employer? Here are some of our tips:

  • Invest in training your staff. Proper training on de-escalation and conflict resolution can empower your staff to take ownership of safety issues. A focus on training and support on mental health for your staff will also have a big impact.
  • Focus on communication. Instigate support plans, encourage reporting, and have a system of regular check-ups with staff. Make sure that these communications are empathetic and sensitive. It’s a difficult and worrying time, so your aim should be to reassure and calm staff – not stress them out.
  • Identify problem areas. Receptionists and triage staff can often bear the brunt of workplace violence or threats. While your workplace violence policy must cover all employees, it’s effective to focus your resources on targeted support for those who most need it.
  • Look at your security measures. Are they appropriate? Do you need to invest in additional hardware or software security measures? Make sure your security measures are up to the task.
  • Think about physical changes if you can. For example, waiting rooms and reception desks could be redesigned to enhance safety. As you may be making changes to these areas anyway to enhance social distancing, now may be a good time to look at this.
  • Do you have enough security staff? You may be looking at staffing levels and increased security to ensure compliance with social distancing and occupancy rules – so is now a good time to look at your security levels?

How Little Green Button can help

Our software and hardware solutions provide a fast, discreet option for duress alarms, using your existing computers and networks.

Our panic alarm software solution is robust and easy to use. You can pair it with hardware buttons or keyboard shortcuts if you’d prefer. It’s the ideal solution for receptionists and triage areas with ready access to computers.

We also offer a mobile app which is perfect for roving members of staff who might not be staffing a fixed location.

With Little Green Button’s software, it’s easy to set up specific locations, groups and escalation paths, so the right person always responds.

As part of a robust strategy to protect your employees from increasing workplace violence, Little Green Button is the perfect panic alarm solution.

If you’d like to find out more about how Little Green Button could help with workplace violence in your healthcare setting, please get in touch.