With expensive equipment on-site and a transient population of patients, staff and visitors, effective access control in hospitals is vital, writes Mike Sussman, chairman of BSIA’s Access Control Section.
With a high volume of people on site at any time, hospitals and residential care homes need to adopt the strictest of security measures. Access control can be used in these premises to ensure that only authorised personnel, such as staff, can access specific areas of the hospital or care home, and this technology is increasingly being used for this purpose.WHAT IS ACCESS CONTROL?
Access control provides the ability to control, monitor and restrict the movement of people, assets or vehicles, in, out and around a building or site. It has a wide range of applications from controlling a single entrance door to a large integrated security network.
Access control systems consist of three components. Firstly, there is the physical barrier, which restricts access into a building. This is achieved through methods such as doors being secured by a magnetic or strike lock and turnstiles or speedgates, which are designed to limit access to one person for one card presented. Secondly, there is the identification device, which identifies users of an access control system before granting access. There are a variety of different devices including a proximity card and reader which uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), at both a short or long read range.
Other methods include a smart card and reader, a swipe card and reader, PIN pads or biometric equipment such as fingerprint and iris scanning. This equipment can be used throughout a hospital or care home site, which will only grant access to staff, thereby reducing the risk of intruders.
The door controller and software is another important tool in an access control system. This is used to decide who can gain access through which access point at what time of day and can vary depending on the size of the system and how many readers or sites are being controlled. There are several options when it comes to installing this technology including: a standalone door controller linked to a single door with no software; a number of door controllers all linked together to a single PC to control one site; a number of sites all interlinked together over a wide network area. All three systems are effective and depend on the hospital or residential care home’s requirements.
As well as their fleeting population hospitals and residential care homes must take into consideration the high value equipment that is kept on-site including computers, laptops and projectors, not to mention the personal possessions of staff, patients and visitors.
Furthermore, an abundance of confidential documents such as patients’ notes will be stored on the premises of the hospital or residential care home as well as a range of medication. Consequently, electronic access control systems are increasingly being used to enhance safety and security in hospitals and care homes to enable access only to the people with the necessary authority.
Access control technology can be integrated with other security measures to provide even tougher protection for premises including hospitals and residential care homes. CCTV is a popular choice when combining access control with other technologies and greatly assists the site because if any unauthorised personnel attempt to access a specific area they should not enter, this action will be recorded in the event that the footage is needed in future. Furthermore, it acts as a deterrent because the individual knows that they may be watched in their attempt to enter the concealed area. This would be particularly useful to hospitals and residential care homes in areas where medication, patients’ notes or specific expensive equipment is stored.
This integration of access control could also be combined with intruder alarm technology. If unauthorised personnel attempt to access a secure area, an alarm could be triggered drawing attention to that individual in the hope that it will deter them from continuing to break through the barrier. It will also enable security staff to take note of the incident and send someone out to remove the individual.REDUCING CRIME RATES
One BSIA member was called upon by Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust after they experienced difficulties with repeat offences of theft, robbery and motor vehicle burglaries at its sites and who wanted an access control and CCTV solution. The BSIA member installed CCTV across a network of 11 Derbyshire NHS sites, which linked back to a monitoring station. Across the 11 sites, a variety of 37 CCTV units, infrared detectors and tannoy solutions were installed. The BSIA member also introduced a total of 17 access control installations as well as 24 proximity readers, break glass and infrared detectors. This integrated system provided operators with a quicker and more effective solution and a thorough overview of the entire site’s security.
Each member of Derbyshire NHS staff was then issued with an access key. On using the key, the action is bookmarked along with the footage from the nearest CCTV unit. If an access card is stolen and access is granted fraudulently, CCTV footage of when and where it was used can be brought up on the integrated recording timeline. This is done almost instantaneously thus allowing for quick evidential footage retrieval. Furthermore, if one of the break-glass detectors or an infrared alarm is activated, this is also logged into the CCTV footage, which operators can examine straightaway. Since installing the system, crime rates across Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust have been reduced to zero.
Another BSIA member was used by residential care home Forest Care, who wanted a greater cost-effective time and attendance system from a good supportive supplier. The BSIA member was selected for its smart card based access control system and this was installed during 2008. Staff from the home received thorough training on how to use the system to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible. Forest Care home has since praised the BSIA member’s system for its reliability and user-friendly technology and claims it has been extremely cost-effective.
FURTHER USES OF ACCESS CONTROL
There are specific features of an access control system, which can further benefit hospitals and residential care homes. These are known as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and fire roll-call software. ANPR is particularly useful on the larger sites where a high volume of staff, patients and visitors are driving in and out of the premises. ANPR will monitor the entrance of vehicles on-site using CCTV-style cameras and computer software, which identify number plates. Some systems will also store photographs of the driver and vehicle for subsequent analysis. This sophisticated software will draw attention to on-site security staff and will enable them to identify any returning cars that are considered suspicious. Furthermore, it allows critical information to be passed to the police to assist in the pursuit, identification and capture of offenders.
Fire roll-call software is of paramount importance to hospitals and residential care homes. In the event of a fire it will automatically generate a report containing vital information as to the whereabouts of individuals inside a building. This software operates via the access control smart card or fob that an employee uses to gain access/exit a building. In the event of an emergency the fire roll-call software alerts occupants while simultaneously activating the report at a safe pre-determined remote point.BETTER PROTECTION FOR HOSPITALS
Due to the nature of the work carried out at hospitals and residential care homes, security is of paramount importance. Access control can greatly assist these premises and ensures that staff, patients and visitors are safe while on-site and any unauthorised personnel cannot access areas that they should not be entering.
The ease of merging access control with other security measures is appealing and enables hospitals and care homes to provide even tougher protection for their site. Combining access control with the likes of CCTV or intruder alarms will only increase the likelihood that any impostor will be caught.
In recognition of the importance of access control and the benefits it can bring to hospitals and residential care homes, the BSIA has produced a guide to access control for the healthcare sector. This guide is available as a free download from www.bsia.co.uk/publications and searching for form number 293.
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the professional trade association of the UK security industry. Its members produce over 70 per cent of the country’s security products and services to strict quality standards. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:www.bsia.co.uk
The BSIA operates a local rate helpline on 0845 389 3889.