A trust in the West Country is exploring whether new technology will help to keep members of its community nursing team who are working in rural, isolated areas safer.
A tracking app that enables nurses to call for help more easily is just one of the devices being trialled by Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Others also include fobs and mobile applications for community staff.
“GPS technology allows us to support our staff and provides them with additional reassurance”
A mobile Global Positioning System (GPS) app was piloted between September and December last year and is “already showing great results”, according to the trust.
The trust noted that 43.7% of Cornwall’s population was classified as rural, meaning community nurses were often working alone in villages and isolated areas and so it could often be a challenge to ensure staff safety.
Therefore, it said that GPS app had been designed to provide community workers with a range of features that aimed to act as preventative measures to keep them safe.
For example, the new app allowed nurses to “check in” when visiting service users in the community and would raise an alert if they failed to do so.
If a nurse felt that they were in an emergency situation, or felt threatened, the app would activate an alarm that triggers the response centre to act, the trust said. Via the app, the community workers’ exact location would then be identified and help immediately summoned.
The trust added that, as part of the GPS app, workers could also be heard and talk via the two-way communication link to provide further information or evidence during an emergency situation.
It highlighted that the app eliminated the need for a “buddy” system and reduced administration support.
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Tracey Rogers, head of security at the trust, told Nursing Times that it was now in the process of reviewing feedback from the staff who took part in the pilot.
She said: “As our staff work across the county, often lone working, we were keen to explore if there was anything more we can do to protect the safety of our staff.”
“GPS technology allows us to support our staff and provides them with additional reassurance that they are able to call for assistance should they need it,” she added.
“Knowing that they have a remote warning device on their person can offer psychological reassurance when lone working”
Ms Rogers reiterated that the trust was trying a variety of apps to see if they “enhance the safety and wellbeing” of staff and proactively revisit its policies and operating procedures, including the element of lone working.
“As a trust we started this initiative because we recognised that due to the nature of the roles within the NHS a significant number of our employees are required to work alone,” she said.
“Our services are geographically spread across the county and we acknowledge this increases the risks when lone working,” she told Nursing Times.
“The aim of the pilot was to see if we could identify anything that could support our existing procedures,” she added.
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With the help of technological advancements, Ms Rogers highlighted that GPS apps now offered the opportunity to be easily applied to a mobile and standalone fobs could offer high-quality two-way audio.
She said: “For some, knowing that they have a remote warning device on their person can offer psychological reassurance when lone working.
“By piloting various applications we are striving to ensure that what we seek to provide to our employees applications which will enhance their safety and wellbeing,” Ms Rogers said.
In a press release for the pilot, Ms Rogers also said: “Already the app is providing immeasurable benefit, including improved staff morale and operational effectiveness.”