Yesterday, Alan Johnson announced that there was going to be £97m funding to help tackle violence and abuse against NHS staff. Apparently "lone NHS workers" will be given devices that "will help locate users and link to a trained individual, who can summon help if needed." There will also be money spent on "training in personal safety, conflict resolution and dealing with verbal abuse for all NHS staff who need it."
Clearly this is an emotive subject, someone who is physically attacked - whether an NHS worker or not - should clearly be protected by the law. But I find myself wondering about the practicalities of this specific spending for some reason, although I readily admit I'm probably being shamelessly cynical.
For a start, what is a "lone NHS worker"? My guess is this is probably going to be a health visitor, a district nurse looking after the elderly, maybe a lone paramedic? What use is a special alarm presumably with GPS going to be for one of these people if they are in the middle of the Cumbrian pikes or the middle of the countryside in general?
Even if they're in a city the response time for an emergency is likely to be so long it's too late. This is especially the case if you first have to raise the alarm, go through to a call centre, which then decides whether you're being beaten up enough to warrant attention. And then there's this "abuse" angle.
What constitutes abuse that deserves to have attention? Will there be a list of swear words that define whether or not the abuse is strong enough? "Oh I'm sorry, she only called you a cow. If you could perhaps provoke her into calling you a twat then we can send SO19 around straight away to take the granny down." You get my drift.
Obviously that won't happen though because they're going to be taught "personal safety", which I guess will be either "run like you're being chased by a tiger" or "Welcome to to the DoJO". Having said that, wouldn't both those things go against the training in "conflict resolution", which, rumour has it, will be carried out by Liverpuddlian's with perms telling people to "calm down".
Yes, yes, such large sums of money being spent on protecting NHS staff from violence and naughty words sounds laudable, but I simply can't see how it will stop it happening. Most of the lone NHS staff will have a mobile phone anyway, or maybe even a radio. If they press the "alarm" it's going to be for a serious emergency that will be dealt with after the fact in most cases anyway.
It's a terribly morbid thing to say, but I always remember a graphic novel by Raymond Briggs about nuclear war called "When the Wind Blows". The elderly couple in it follow the Government's advice and climb into two poatato sacks each (bottom and top half) not realising they're actually make-shift body bags. Spending money on a trackable alarm won't stop the violence, it will just tell them where to find the body - assuming they press it in time.