Comment: Is funding harming safety and security?

When restricted by budget; safety and security standards can waver. Here, Karen Trigg of Allegion UK discusses how this is impacting healthcare estates and why budgets shouldn’t legitimise complacency

Are dwindling capital budgets putting health at risk?

Addressing budgetary restrictions in public, government-owned buildings has become a challenge.

When stories hit the news about failing fire safety standards, or poor security, the root of the cause is almost never linked to financial restrictions.

Granted, however, a lot of the time there are other, louder contributing factors. These may include lack of sufficient knowledge, training, emergency preparedness, and so on.

Budget cuts within the healthcare sector, in particular, have left many NHS practices and hospitals stuck between a rock and a hard place, where the lack of funding has resulted in a number of issues beyond just safety and security concerns

Addressing budgetary restrictions is one thing. Breaking it down and forming practical, legitimate, and effective solutions and answers is another.

So how can facility managers and safety and security teams improve their current protocols if they don’t have sufficient budgets?

The answer starts with proactivity.

A rock and a hard place

Last year, a study by Allegion UK found that more than 40% of healthcare facilities which felt their current security measures were compromised said this was because of underfunding or budgetary constraints.

Budget cuts within the healthcare sector, in particular, have left many NHS practices and hospitals stuck between a rock and a hard place,” where the lack of funding has resulted in a number of issues beyond just safety and security concerns.

It’s becoming clearer that these types of facilities may be struggling when it comes to certain fire safety measures.

Recently, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust requested to be granted a bulk of capital funding to improve its fire safety measures following a recommendation from its fire service.

The trust initially planned to invest an amount significantly less (£750,000 a year) on its fire safety measures, but decided to take action after the fire service expressed concern over the pace of work.

Therefore, with many of these types of facilities left grasping at straws, it’s necessary to start thinking about what to do if funding falls short.

The circumstances above indicate that, while the desire to better current protocols may be present; budget or other constraining factors may be limiting progress.

While the desire to better current protocols may be present; budget or other constraining factors may be limiting progress

Therefore, if this is the case for most, is it time we started raising greater awareness of the issues that come with budgeting pressures?

Or perhaps it’s time to shift the focus entirely and bring the industry back to basics. That way, we can be sure complacency won’t creep in, no matter the budget size and pro-activity will pave the way to productivity.

Everyday actions

Even the biggest safety and security budgets won’t succeed in removing all risk. In fact, technology isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to heightening security. It’s actually the intangible measures which help to tie up the loose ends and glue the entire system together.

A full comprehensive approach is key.

Jerry Irvine, chief information officer of US IT outsourcing company, Prescient Solutions, said that improving protocols has become more about implementing effective ‘security policies as opposed to simply buying security tools’.

While he speaks within the context of internet technology, this statement rings true across safety and security within the healthcare construction industry, too.

This can include assessing current protocols so you can work out what needs altering or improving.

One aspect that’s often overlooked is how all occupants within a building are integral to the success of safety and security. This is the one area which doesn’t require large budgets, but is perhaps one of the most-effective and important aspects.

Emergency preparedness

A clear, effective emergency evacuation procedure, or lockdown protocol, can be helpful with safeguarding a premises against any potential risk including unauthorised entry.

But, many facilities are still without a lockdown procedure, even though including one within a security strategy means heightened preparedness if any emergency situation were to occur.

Involve all

It’s easy to leave safety and security protocols up to facility managers or managing teams. However, it’s useful and worthwhile to involve staff or any of those who regularly use the building.

This can include making sure staff are trained up on aspects such as general fire safety regulations and emergency evacuation plans.

Beyond this, in hospitals, simple things can be helpful with keeping people in the know where it counts the most. This could be clearly signposting evacuation plans, or fire safety tips such as not propping fire doors open.

Solutions for all

Although these measures are incredibly effective when implemented correctly, they aren’t standalone solutions. In fact, these intangible measures are even more successful when combined with appropriate physical measures, too.

Feeling in the dark doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no help out there. Sometimes the best results can be achieved by choosing to actively and collaboratively search out the right solution

Again, however, some may shy away from upgrading old systems, or implementing new ones, for fear of improvements not being budget friendly.

However, the industry has developed considerably in recent years and high-quality products and solutions are becoming increasingly accessible.

This means that, while these types of facilities may be up against the restrictions of budget, they’re still able to find and implement well-rounded and effective solutions. And they’re able to do so in such a way that benefits their specific requirements, rather than opting for solutions purely based on cost-effectiveness.

Being active

Last year, one of the most-pressing issues in the industry was a lack of sufficient knowledge. This came off the back of news stories such as the Grenfell Tower fire and subsequent inquiry, which served to be a wake-up call within the industry.

However, there continues to be a certain lack of pro-activity to make things better, or even just make things right.

When restricted by things like budget, it’s important to remember that, not only is there trustworthy help out there, but that budget isn’t always a testament to safety and security standards.

As discussed, adopting a fully-integrated holistic approach can improve protocols to no end.

What’s more, feeling in the dark doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no help out there. Sometimes the best results can be achieved by choosing to actively and collaboratively search out the right solution.

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