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Mentor and apprentice

Lee Sweeney and Peter Finch were among the people Professional Security met at IFSEC this year. They are a team leader and Head of security at Sandwell and West Birmingham, Hospitals NHS Trust respectively.

Lee started a distance learning foundation degree in security management with the University of Leicester in March and is getting stuck into the first module. He got a 25 per cent discount on course fees and exemption from three modules of the degree having completed the diploma (with distinction) and certificate in security management through the Security Institute. Lee started as a security officer. “Now I am looking to make the move from a team leader-junior manager position to a more senior management position; that was the selling point for enrolling for the degree, because lots of companies are after academic qualifications to get into management. They are looking for more academically-based people.” That is his aim for the next few years; and to do a bit of travelling, in terms of widening his horizons in other security sectors. He’s been in healthcare security for seven years – he’s 26. Peter has been mentoring Lee for some years since Lee first indicated that he wanted to become a security manager.

Peter Finch adds that healthcare is ‘probably the most challenging of the non-combative security environments that there are, when you think of the sorts of people you are dealing with on a 24-7 basis, suffering from mental health, drug or alcohol abuse, faced with learning difficulties, or people with mental ill health or who are elderly and confused; it isn’t like working in retail or an industrial complex. The people we deal with are very different and it needs as a result perhaps a wider range of skill-sets than a traditional security manager or security officer may have. As Lee added, an acute hospital will have anything from radioactive material to harmful pathogens and toxins, as well as retailers, on site. People on site may be at their most vulnerable; others are stressed simply at having to visit the hospital. This is what makes healthcare security such a diverse and interesting area to work in, Peter argues.

Peter went on: “All the security officers and the team leaders are in-house. It isn’t required, but they are all going through their apprenticeship in security services with Telford College.” Even the most junior security officers are trained to be in charge of a fire incident, until a more senior manager of fire commander arrives on scene. They are all SIA door supervisor licensed, take annual refresher training in MAPA (management of actual and potential aggression), including physical intervention (restraining people); and are trained in basic life support. This is needed because if you are restraining someone, who has a heart attack in front of you, “It’s imperative that you can do something about it immediately.” Or, it may be that a security officer is restraining someone so that they are given medication. What if the patient at once has a bad reaction to the drugs? If the security officer is trained in aphylaxis, while the officer does not take the place of nurses, they are an extra pair of eyes and ears to help in the work of healthcare; and are considered as part of the healthcare team.

As Peter puts it, “Security in the NHS can be seen as a business enabler. “They [Security] are enabling the healthcare staff to carry out their function by stopping them from being assaulted, or helping them when they need assistance to deal with challenging patients.” Likewise, security officers protect property and assets – essential equipment like endoscopes that otherwise might be damaged or stolen. Protecting both the staff and equipment ensures that healthcare can be delivered in a safe and secure environment. Peter’s point; that Security should be seen as a business enabler rather than a hindrance, and not be seen as the ‘fun police’, or a cost to the bottom line. Sustainability has to be considered and security has to be aligned to the strategic objectives. In his trust, with 7,500 staff and 1150 in-patient beds, and £455m income, objectives include providing safe, high quality care and ensuring the best use of resources.

Lee has been to IFSEC once before; he could not make last year because of work. He’s been to the Counter Terror Expo (CTX) in London. He was listening to some of the IFSEC conference speakers. The two discussed the talk the day before by the new Security Institute chairman, Emma Shaw, on how Security should talk in business terms, of showing rate of return on investment, and understanding the direction of the employer, ‘because if you are moving away from it, you aren’t working with the direction of travel of the organisation’ Peter Finch said. ‘That is when you start to become a cost pressure, you are an expense to the business and people should be asking why.’ On this point Lee quoted Prof Martin Gill, and spoke of how Security should show ways it is helping the business operate more effectively, rather than being a grudge purchase. If a hospital loses a vital piece of equipment, or has to close services because of a bomb threat, or other serious incident then there is a cost. Likewise, it may be that hospital security officers have to manage an incident, but whereas old-fashioned Security might have been to lock down all the doors and formulate a rigid, limited response , a partial, progressive or transitional lock-down might be enough, to help resolve the problem while allowing as much of the hospital to keep working as possible. In this way, Security is also seen as an effective part of the organisation’s business continuity and emergency management response.

Professional Security said it had seldom spoken to someone as young as Lee (26, remember). Peter Finch suggested that that will change, because universities around the country are bringing in 20-year-olds to learn about security. It’s all very well having experience, but industry recognises that a security manager needs a wider academic understanding of why something happens and how to manage it. “We have a changing security industry both at home and abroad, dealing with ever more complex issues, rising standards and constantly emerging threats.” Hence the benefit of going to such events as CTX and IFSEC; where you learn from the people you meet, and from conference speakers – with training for free, all day. Peter. who’s 54, is a Fellow of the Security Instutue and a Chartered Security Pprofessional. He is also a ASIS Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and is studying to convert the CPP into a certificate in security management through Bucks New University (whose Phil Wood, Head of Enterprise and Security for Design, Media and Management, was featured in the March issue of Professional Security).

About Bucks New –

About Peter Finch –

He is the chairman of the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS).


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