Safety first at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust provides the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK, so it's not surprising that it takes the safety of staff and patients very seriously. Find out how we're assisting the trust with our state-of-the-art technology

October 31, 2018

Key facts

  • One of the UK’s leading mental health trusts.
  • Fewer violent incidents, and improved staff and patient safety. 
  • Better staff perception of safety and wellbeing. 
  • A SLaM-Ascom working partnership spanning 16 years.


South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) provides the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK. It provides services across five sites - from an outpatient therapy unit in Brixton to the Royal Bethlem Hospital which houses one of the largest medium secure psychiatric units in England on a 270-acre site with extensive grounds.

The Trust takes safety very seriously. A survey by the trade union Unison revealed in October 2017 that two out of every five NHS mental health workers had been abused or attacked by a patient over the previous year* - sharply highlighting the sector’s need for security technology that works effectively.

SLaM chose Ascom to provide a site-wide security paging system in 2002. Since then, we have continually worked with the Trust to expand the solution to meet their needs for staff safety and rapid emergency response.

The most recent go-live was in February 2018. SLaM’s solutions used both IP DECT and their existing Wi-Finetwork – to meet the specific needs of each site. 

To find out more about how we can help you ensure the safetly of your staff and patients using the right communication tools, call 0121 353 6151 or email 

Using the latest technology to maximise safety

IP DECT was tested on a small number of wards. As an IT-networked solution, it was easy to expand the system across the Trust estate, replacing the old paging infrastructure ward by ward. When the River House medium secure unit was built, the IP DECT solution provided a complete site critical alarm network for mobile workers. The Trust needed it to integrate with their existing hardwired panic system so that if a panic button were activated, the alarms are distributed to local staff members’ handsets, and office/nurse station displays. By easily identifying the type of alert – by different tones, colour codes and text – response times have improved. Staff can reset the system from handsets rather than walking back to the control unit - saving precious time, reduce noise and maintaining security. 

Tailored to the trust’s needs and budget

Our tailored approach has ensured that we can meet the different needs of each site’s infrastructure, while providing the most cost-effective solutions.

To protect lone workers at the larger sites, we have provided mobile devices and pull-cord alarms in every ward, our ‘man-down’ software identifies staff at immediate risk and their location, and sends an alarm to other staff of any incident. Importantly, the system is controlled independently and provides a log of every event for reporting, quality review and improvement. It is designed to be scalable - growing with the Trust as it develops new services.

SLaM also has a unique solution for nurses in the medium secure unit. The nurses begin and end each shift at a biometric scanner that checks their fingerprints before releasing a locker containing their handset and ward keys. It integrates a handset charging solution which records who has the handset, when it was taken, and their individual alert response/responsibilities.

If a nurse is part of the emergency response team, they are notified of an incident by an alert to their handset. The handset can set off an emergency signal on the ward which sends the alarm by relay to other members of the team. It can summon assistance directly to any event - including critical information in the alarm message - activating follow me lights, and fixed displays at a nursing station. If staff move between wards the safety alarm can be activated anywhere in the grounds providing wider area location information. This is also a vital feature for support staff, porters and estates staff who often work alone. Their mobile devices also integrate with the Trust’s telephone system (PBX). This means that users can make and receive phone calls to a single phone extension and open conference calls for emergency events.  

Fewer violent incidents

The Trust’s local security management specialist Simon Jackson is certain the system has reduced violent incidents. 

"I see the proof in how widespread the system is now. We began at one hospital. It was so successful and generated so much staff confidence that we rolled it out across all our facilities.”

IP DECT is the most reliable voice and data communication technology for dispersed sites. It has guaranteed coverage and up-time via secure dedicated frequency bands, plus remote system supervision. The software links the handsets with existing security and fire alarms, building management and light/sound systems to ensure direct contact with emergency response teams. So if, for example, a fire alarm goes off in one area, nurses can reach it quickly and ensure patients and staff are secure before evacuation doors are released.

For the larger sites – Bethlem, Maudsley and Lambeth hospitals – we provided a full IP DECT communications system, including industry-grade handsets with the latest lone-worker monitoring software. IP DECT has high voice quality and provides best possible coverage for the geography of the hospitals, with a range of location technologies. Central control can determine staff location to a specific room or within a few metres outside.

For the smaller Ladywell Unit at Lewisham Hospital and the outpatient facility on Brixton Road, Ascom installed a Wi-Fi based solution with a real-time location system to track staff and ensure their safety. 

Safer for patients

"Not only do staff feel safer, it has generated comfort and safety for patients.”

Patients’ bedrooms have wall mounted panic alarms. These used to sound in every ward, causing disturbance to other patients. Now they are linked more discreetly to nurses’ handsets to ensure the fastest response.

Simon lists reliability and user-friendliness as additional features that make Ascom better than other systems.

“Staff find it easy to use, and it’s very flexible. They can easily move from inside to outside the building because of the protected DECT network. They are confident that there will be no interference or communication blackspots. That commitment to coverage is a big thing for us, operating as we do on sites with large grounds.”

The system is also reassuring during evenings, at night and at weekends, when there may be fewer people in the hospital.

“Staff are confident that they can get hold of one another easily. The handsets have phone books, and calls can be easily transferred to another part of the Trust.” Flexibility and adaptability are vital too for the multi-site estate. Simon gives an example. “We currently rent some premises from another trust but will not be in there for a long time. Ascom came up with a Wi-Fi solution that gave us more access points and an alarm system without having to install a new network. It was much more cost effective. We did not have to close the ward to install it, and we knew that when we moved, we could take the system to our new premises, so the investment is still there.” 

Keeping 1500 handsets operating efficiently is no small task, and SLaM has a slick operation to enable ‘hot swapping’ of devices. Staff who bring a broken handset to the estates department can quickly have their data transferred on to a new device and leave their old one in the cradle to be fixed. 

"It means there is no downtime for devices, and we can provide first line triage for faults, keeping the whole system running as smoothly as possible.” 

Using the in-built location technology, every member of staff can receive an automatic alert that prompts them to return their handsets before they leave the site.

Would he recommend the Ascom system to other trusts? “Certainly. I have often recommended it, and we have had visits from other trusts. The best thing for me is the security of the network, and the adaptability of the system.”



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