Balancing Access and Security in Mental Health Facilites

“‘Accessibility’ is a guiding principle for the NHS, as well as a contentious issue, but more than ever, it is door opening solutions that need to strike the right balance between protection and accessibility.

As the first point of contact, hospital foyers and Accident and Emergency receptions are often some of the most volatile areas. With a high volume of traffic, distressed patients and visitors, and numerous access points, they have the potential to be mismanaged and unsecure for staff and patients. 

With 70% of attacks being from patients deemed not responsible for their actions, due to either medical conditions, adverse reactions to treatment or mental issues, security must aim to manage the vulnerability of these patients with the safety of hospital staff – and entrances are often a flashpoint for these situations to ignite. 

Whilst the access provided by door operators, which use pressure sensors to detect in and outbound traffic, ensure that hospital foyers and Accident and Emergency departments are fully accessible by all, this does create security issues. 

Protective glass frames, which ensure full visibility and high security doorsets are used to protect reception and first point of contact staff. In addition, doors accessible only by authorised key holders forming part of a masterkey system, as well as monitored electric strikes, which allow real time monitoring of a doors’ status are used to provide an additional level of security to rooms and areas accessed from the main entrance. 

In addition, some hospitals isolate their Accident and Emergency departments at night to prevent patients accessing other areas of the building. Access control systems, allow doors to be locked automatically at the correct times and can control an unlimited number of doors. 

Other solutions, which we are seeing a growing demand for in specialised patient areas can include, clutch thumbturn locks, with an anti-ligature design making them ideal for mental health facilities. These locks afford patient privacy but enable authorised staff to gain access to rooms at all times, even if the patient has attempted to barricade themselves in. This allows room searches and the close monitoring of patient behaviour without staff needing to force entry, creating a potentially hostile situation.  

ASSA ABLOY’s extensive experience has enabled the development of new and innovative products that offer intelligent access control, as well as bespoke hardware, combining security, safety and convenience in cost effective and flexible solutions.”