Exclusive: Balancing patient needs and effective security

August 11, 2021


Michael Brooke, Head of Operational Services at Police Crime Prevention Initiatives explores designing out crime in the healthcare sector.

Sometimes crime prevention is at its best when it’s least noticeable to members of the public – and that is certainly the case with healthcare facilities. Whilst effective security should be part and parcel of any development, when it comes to healthcare it has to be achieved with a genuine understanding of how patients, visitors and staff need to use the building and in a way that is barely noticeable to members of the public.

Secured by Design, the official police crime prevention initiative, has a network of police officers and staff attached to police forces and local authorities around the UK. Known as Designing Out Crime Officers, they work with architects, developers and local authority planners – during the pre-planning and planning stages through to construction – to design out crime in a whole range of building sectors including residential, schools, hospitals, universities, commercial, retail and sport and leisure.

We take a look at three different areas of the healthcare sector where security has seamlessly been incorporated into the development, providing the best possible patient care as well as ensuring the safety of those people visiting and working in the facilities. Each development has achieved a Secured by Design Gold Award for its security.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool opened its doors for the first time in 2015. The hospital authorities were focused on providing a building that was relaxed, friendly, open and welcoming. This approach, which is entirely appropriate and befits a children’s hospital, could be considered contrary to what is traditionally thought of from a policing perspective as the makings of a secure building.

Therefore, it presented huge challenges for the specialist Designing Out Crime Officers from Merseyside Police who were keen to work with the hospital, and its architects and developers, to make the building safe and secure.

One of the biggest examples of how these two very different requirements came together successfully was in the meandering approach to the hospital’s front entrance. It was agreed that strategically placed featured art, planters and trees would help to create a pleasant environment for patients, parents, visitors and staff; these were also measures that would help prevent the hospital from becoming a ‘soft target’. More formally referred to as hostile vehicle mitigation measures, these have been designed and implemented to hinder the approach of vehicles deliberately being driven off-road at buildings or pedestrians for criminal or terrorist purposes.

As well as building in security to the layout and landscaping, Merseyside Police also worked to ensure the physical security of the hospital’s buildings by using CCTV, lighting to increase visibility, access control systems and robust doors, windows and locks that would be difficult for casual or opportunistic criminals to gain easy access.

Alder Hey is one of only four stand-alone paediatric trusts in the country, is one of Europe’s biggest and busiest children’s hospitals and is becoming recognised as one of the world’s leaders in children’s healthcare and research into children’s medicines, infection, inflammation and oncology. It cares for more than 275,000 children, young people and their families every year.

The hospital is part of a complex that includes a brand new research, innovation and education centre.

Lister House Health Centre, Harlow
Six years of partnership working – between police Designing Out Crime Officers and other partner organisations – went into designing crime prevention techniques into the physical security of the Lister House Health Centre building and its layout and landscaping to make it as safe a place as possible for patients and visitors as well as health service practitioners.

The centre includes a GP’s practice, dentist and pharmacy within a single building.

Security measures that led to the building receiving Secured by Design’s (SBD) Gold Award include an integrated risk management and intruder alarm system for the whole building linked to an alarm receiving centre that is monitored 24/7. In addition to this, security roller shutters on the front door to the communal entrance. These are measures that have been replicated with alarms and shutters protecting each of the three separate health facilities – each with its own staff access control systems.

All doors and windows and the curtain walling on the external façade are PAS 24 SBD compliant.

The immediate surrounding area has been landscaped to maximise natural surveillance with subtle planting and strategic use of CCTV, lighting and bollards to protect the 130 space car park – this has all been implemented whilst respecting the planning authority’s requirements for interconnectivity with adjoining areas and cycle paths throughout the town. Special measures were taken to protect the health centre’s nitrogen gas canisters and waste bin storage.

Even the car park has been signed off by Secured by Design for achieving Park Mark status, which recognises that appropriate levels of surveillance, lighting, signage and cleanliness have all been achieved. The building has also achieved BREEAM ‘excellent’ status for sustainability.

In the words of the architect, Paul Young, of CAMM Architects: “It’s been designed with full, open and easy access with lots of natural daylight, bright and open spaces and easy wayfinding. The result is a welcoming building and is as uplifting as possible. I wanted to make people feel better just walking into the building.”

The Lister House development is the biggest single health centre practice in West Essex, with 20,000 plus patients registered for medical services at the ten-doctor practice, which is also a training centre.

Rotherham Urgent and Emergency Care Centre

The state of the art Rotherham Urgent and Emergency Care Centre saw South Yorkshire Police’s Designing Out Crime Officers working with the architects, Gilling Dod and The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, from the planning stages through to construction, to incorporate the appropriate crime prevention techniques and security into the development.

These measures included a safe and security-focused layout for the building and its immediate environment that enable natural surveillance; fixed furniture; state of the art digital CCTV and appropriate access control systems. The measures also include doors, windows and locks which meet the enhanced Police Preferred Specification Standards.

The unique nature of the development meant that the operational relationships had to be understood within the context of the existing hospital services, whilst working closely with the clinical teams to ensure that the design solution was clinically effective, safe and provided a much improved working environment for them. The design was also based on a thorough understanding of the journey the patient makes through the department, which varies depending on the means of arrival, the clinical condition and whether the patient is an adult or a child.

The £12.2 million Urgent and Emergency Care Centre is open for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has brought A&E facilities together with those of a former local walk-in centre.

In the three cases discussed, all security measures were considered carefully to be commensurate with the risk to the buildings and to complement the overall architectural vision. Whilst effective security is part and parcel of a development, it has to achieved with a genuine understanding of how patients, visitors and staff need to use the building and in a way that’s barely noticeable to members of the public.

Part of Police Crime Prevention Initiatives portfolio, Secured by Design was created in 1989 following the housing boom of the 1960s-1980s when there was a huge and urgent demand for housing, with estates being built quickly and often cheaply without any basic security. In response, the Police Service set up Secured by Design to combat this significant rise in burglary. Since then, more than one million homes and commercial properties have been built to SBD requirements across the UK, resulting in reductions in crimes such as burglary of up to 87%. These are sustainable reductions each and every year.

Secured by Design has produced a series of authoritative Design Guides to assist the building, design and construction industry to incorporate security into developments. These have been constantly updated over the years to keep pace with changing patterns of criminal behaviour, advances in building design and new technology and are available to view and download for free online.

Michael Brooke


This article was published in the August 2021 edition of Security Journal UK. Pick up your FREE digital copy on the link here

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