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Research recently carried out among community midwives working for West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust has revealed that 87% now “feel reasonably safe when working alone in the community” following the introduction of LookOut call, a new mobile phone-based safety scheme.

In light of disturbing statistics issued recently by the NHS, LookOut call was introduced by the Trust as part of an ongoing commitment to staff safety and security . Data collected within the NHS revealed there were over 80,000 reported instances of violent or abusive behaviour towards NHS staff in 2001/2*; a figure which rose to over 95,000 in 2002/3 according to the National Audit Office (NAO). More alarmingly, the NAO claims the true figure may be 40% higher (as two in five attacks are never reported to bosses)**.

The new service from Cambridge-based C3 Ltd. provides additional protection for healthcare professionals working alone in the Community by giving them a reliable means of calling for help while travelling between appointments or visiting patients. LookOut call was introduced into West Suffolk Trust on a pilot basis in December 2002 and a system subsequently purchased for on-going use.

Research carried out among the Trusts’ midwives after the introduction of LookOut call also revealed:

· 80% of those interviewed felt that in the event of an incident it would be easy to raise the alarm and let someone know where they were
· 73% said that if they didn’t return from a visit that they were confident that a responsible person would find out quickly and respond appropriately
· 60% said that they felt current procedures and safety systems were sufficient to address the risks they faced when working alone

To operate the service, midwives use a normal mobile phone linked to a centralised computer system. Before they visit a patient, they use their phones to update the computer with their destination and route details. In the event of an incident occurring the system automatically calls for back up and provides location details of the affected member of staff. The centralised computer system utilises communications connectivity technology from Aculab.

Midwives update the computer before each appointment with their movements (for example, “I am starting a 60 minute patient visit”) and leave a spoken message with their location details. The computer system then uses these updates to initiate countdown timers for each midwife. If a midwife then fails to send another update within the specified time set, the computer first checks for a false alarm by sending a text message. If the midwife still does not respond to this message, team leaders or managers are contacted, and if necessary the police made aware of the situation.

The service also features a panic facility that can be used in emergency situations. By pressing a single button, the mobile phone automatically speed dials through to the police.

West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the first acute NHS trusts to pilot the new
LookOut call service. Within the next two months, all community midwives working for the Trust will use the system.

Sheila Cornwell, Midwifery Manager, is very positive about the impact of the LookOut call service. “Midwives work alone and can often find themselves in vulnerable situations,” she said. “This system reduces that vulnerability and risk of attack. Our first duty is to our patients, but staff safety is also of paramount importance. This initiative shows a great deal of commitment from the Trust, and it makes us feel valued to know that our personal security is a priority.”


* Summary of 2000/ 2001 Survey of reported violent or abusive behavior incidents, accidents and staff sickness absence in NHS trust and health authorities in England - Source: Dept. of Health 2002
** Source: BBC

About C3

C3 develops and supplies computer-based communications platforms and applications for corporates, service providers and the public sector. Since 1990 the company has installed over 250,000 lines of communications technology worldwide for: prepaid telephony, emergency call out, IVR, speech recognition, call/contact centre, virtual call centre, voicemail, and automated solutions.

For further enquiries please contact:

Adrian Murrell, Communique (for West Suffolk Hospitals) Tel: 01284 768 935 email:
Susan Hunt, C3, Tel: +44 (0) 1223 427700 email:
Michael Gray, Gray Associates Ltd. Tel: +44 (0) 20 8744 9168 email:

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