Exclusive: Secure opportunities to support the NHS

February 9, 2022

Ben Farrar, Market Development Manager, Healthcare at Traka explores his experience of partnering with NHS teams across the UK.

The NHS has proven throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that it can deliver in many ways other national health systems simply cannot achieve. And, it has done so with dedication, professionalism and flexibility of NHS staff and managers.

When we think of the NHS, we focus on our pride for the relentless work that they do; we recognise those carrying out essential roles, who have selflessly continued their day-to-day duties in support of us all. On a daily basis we read of the number of staff feeling unwell from work-related stress, mental health issues and intense pressure – now seen at its highest rate for the past five years.

According to a survey published by The BMJ, 33% of staff believe their trust has taken positive action on health and wellbeing. 60% of respondents believe that they had adequate materials, supplies, and equipment to do their work, up from 56% in the previous year’s survey. Small changes have been proven to make a significant difference to the way teams operate and enhance their wellbeing in their daily lives and, by consequence, their ability to deliver optimum quality of care to patients. 

There have been several plans published, citing the pace of transformation that needs to occur, putting people front and centre, accounting for positive mental wellbeing and how it will positively impact patient outcomes as well as staff retention and the attraction of new talent. 

NHS People Plan and Transformation

The tone for change was set in the NHS Long Term Plan. This was developed “in partnership with those who know the NHS best, frontline health and care staff, patients and their families.” As the plan states, its ambition is for “improvement over the next decade and underpins the importance of technology in the future NHS.” It sets out the critical priorities that will support digital transformation and provides a step change in the way the NHS cares for citizens.

As the plan states: “Virtually every aspect of modern life has been, and will continue to be, radically reshaped by innovation and technology – and healthcare is no exception… technology is continually opening up new possibilities for prevention, care and treatment.”

This plan was enhanced with the follow up, “NHS: People Plan 2020/21 – action for us all”, along with the ‘NHS People Promise’ launched in July 2020, to set out what our NHS people can expect from their leaders and from each other. The plan intended to “build on the creativity and drive shown by our NHS people in their response, to the COVID-19 pandemic.” It cites how the arrival of COVID-19 acted as a “springboard, bringing about an incredible scale and pace of transformation,” and highlighting the enormous contribution of all NHS people. As it states: “the NHS must build on this momentum and continue to transform – keeping people at the heart of all we do.”

Both plans demonstrate how technology can play a central role in realising objectives and can help “clinicians use the full range of their skills, reducing bureaucracy, stimulating research and enabling service transformation.” The critical component of the implementation of any technology is that it is designed to help NHS staff and this includes the support of teams working with them, including Pharmacy Managers, Medical Safety Officers and associated key workers to deliver information and better care, more efficiently.

Healthcare buildings

Technology is cited in the increasing focus on healthcare buildings. The total costs of running the NHS estate was most recently reported at £9.5bn, representing a little under 5% of total healthcare spending. Healthcare buildings, too, are being scrutinised around whether they’re fit for purpose and whether they represent value for money. Realising the potential of new technologies is one of the key opportunities outlined in the influential Public Health England’s 2020–2025 strategy and the importance of technology has persisted as a theme. Progress was being made on sourcing the time and investment to realise these plans and strategies.

It is perhaps no surprise that new hospitals, designed to feel welcoming through the use of natural light and bright, airy spaces, can positively impact both workforce wellbeing and clinical outcomes. Buildings that are fit for purpose will feed into a more efficient early intervention programme. The right infrastructure and technology available allows staff to work with the agility needed to meet changing demands and increasing patient expectations. 

It is only once exploring the day-to-day impact of NHS care workers and clinicians that the impact of technology in healthcare estates can be more easily seen and align with the vision of the People Plan – to work differently and ”find new ways of working and delivering care and growth for the future.”

Day-to-day routines

One of the key issues Traka has been involved with when working with NHS Trusts is implementing automated locker systems to enable NHS staff and key workers to have their own space and locker that only they can access at the beginning and end of their shift. This eliminates the time spent looking for a locker (if one is available at all) and also enhances access with a specialist code, eliminating the need to find traditional keys (often lost or taken off site in error.)

This instant access to a locker means NHS staff are assured their possessions are safe and accessible quickly and instantly so that they can focus on starting and ending their shift in more relaxed way. Management of lockers also enabled schedules to be established when certain lockers may not be accessible for cleaning, maximising hygiene throughout the healthcare environment. The same is true for managing drugs cabinets, housing controlled drugs that naturally require high-level access control. Using intelligent key management systems allows only authorised personnel to access the cabinets at any one time.

Saving time is an essential consideration and part of the NHS Long Term Plan to embrace iPad technology to confidentially store patient data and records. In fact, this is such a commitment that the Long Term Plan suggests: “All providers, across acute, community and mental health settings, will be expected to advance to a core level of digitisation by 2024.”With the ambition in certain trusts that every junior doctor will have access to an iPad, the availability and storage of such technology falls to the security, compliance and facility teams to manage.

Brighton & Sussex NHS Trust

Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust is just one real world example of how healthcare facilities are making key management an embedded aspect of its health, safety and security procedures and working towards more efficacy in the future.   

The Trust itself has highlighted its own agenda, with a dedicated patient first programme supported by five pillars, each designed to help achieve its vision. The first is about getting frontline staff to approach problem solving and root cause analysis from a different, ceaselessly inquisitive perspective.

Traka worked with staff to improve the safety and accountability of the drugs issuing process at Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust, by installing its key management solutions. Previously, keys to drugs lockers were issued manually, with one member of staff acting as a steward. However, this led to human error, difficulties in locating the keys and additional administration duties for busy ward staff.

Despite the thorough manual processes in place and the majority of staff remaining vigilant, stock discrepancies did occur, sometimes through genuine human error and in other cases, theft. This had serious health and safety, security and cost implications for the trust. After working with Traka, the keys to the drug lockers are now stored within an intelligent key cabinet. Through the ward staff’s existing credentials, only authorised personnel are able to access the cabinet.

The keys inside the system are locked in place by Traka’s secure iFobs which means a hierarchy of access rights can be given to each key, depending on the strength or skill of administrating each drug. Within the cabinet, only certain keys will be available depending on the pre-determined access rights. To maximise security, the key cabinet has been programmed so that two members of staff need to swipe their credential to take and to return a key to the system. This creates greater accountability and encourages an easy-to-achieve best practice amongst ward staff.

“The Traka system has made a massive difference to the drugs dispensing process on the wards,” explains the Head of Security for the Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust. “From a health and safety perspective, we can have greater confidence that drugs do not get into the wrong hands, or that untrained workers cannot get hold of drugs they are not authorised to administer. From the ward staff’s point of view, it has taken away timely administration tasks, and the frustrations of trying to locate keys when a patient needs medication.”

The trust also installed a Traka system to manage access in and around the estates. Two large key cabinets situated outside the security office allow authorised personnel with access to sensitive areas of the hospital to easily retrieve the keys they are permitted to use.

This system considerably reduces additional administration efforts from security staff, and allows people to access keys easily and safely. There is also a curfew on keys to certain areas, meaning that security staff are alerted if a key was meant to be returned at a certain time, providing greater levels of accountability and health and safety.

The integration of the right technology represents a prime opportunity to realise the Department for Health and Social Care’s vision for a “world-leading technology and data-driven health and social care system.” One that is available for all to access.

Ben Farrar, Market Development Manager, Healthcare at Traka

To find out more information about the work that Traka is doing in the UK market, visit: www.traka.com

This article was originally published in the February edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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