The Department of Health has announced that 30,000 lone NHS workers are to get personal safety alarms incorporating location tracking technology.

The DH has signed a framework agreement for 30,000 subscriptions to fund i750 Identicom devices made by Reliance. It said the subscriptions will be centrally funding for the first two years of three-year contract terms.

The announcement follows a pledge from health secretary Alan Johnson and his predecessor John Reid to provide alarms for community staff.

The devices use Location Based Service (LBS) technology to help locate the user and will be used by community nurses and other NHS staff who work in isolation from colleagues.

The devices will be linked to a call centre which can summon help if necessary. The DH said the call centres would also be able to listen and record events in a way that was legally admissible making it easier for workers to bring cases to prosecution where appropriate.

Alan Johnson said no NHS staff should have to put up with violence in the workplace.

He added: “Lone workers are particularly vulnerable and I am determined to provide them with as much protection as we can to enable them to carry out their valuable work knowing that they have the support they need should their personal safety be threatened.”

The announcement was welcomed by Anne Duffy, chief executive of the Community and District Nurses Association.

She said: “This is the best news for district nurses. We have campaigned for the safety of nurses for some time. Alan Johnson has delivered his pledge to us and we thank him. We have a duty of care for the nurses who care for all of us.”

Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said nurses and other healthcare staff who work alone would welcome having a system to keep them safe.

He added: “Trusts have a responsibility to keep their staff safe so they must ensure that all lone workers at risk have access to these devices quickly to support them as they go about their work in the community.”

The alarms will be rolled out from this week. They will initially be targeted at community workers who work with patients and families who have a history of violence, alcohol or drug abuse or clinical conditions which might heighten the risk to the lone worker. They will also be given to staff who work in areas of high crime rates and social deprivation.

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