Letter: Hospital security

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The Independent Online
Sir: I would like to comment on your dramatic account of the report on hospital security (12 May).

Nobody can afford to underestimate the impact of assaults and theft within the NHS. Indeed, it was precisely to try to quantify, and then to draw attention to, these problems that we commissioned the report and publicised its findings. In your article you reported estimated loss of pounds 600m a year but one of the authors of the report, Sheena Carmichael, said that it was not possible to make an accurate assessment. There was no figure of pounds 600m in the report. I understand this figure was based on an extrapolation from the retail sector, which is not comparable with the NHS in that 70 per cent of the NHS costs are in staffing, and not consumables.

However, we are determined that all managers place security at the top of their agendas and we have asked them to review all their crime-prevention procedures. We do not want hospitals to to turned into formidable fortresses, bristling with security devices and uniformed guards. That would seriously harm the ethos of caring that pervades the NHS. But we do want all equipment to be accounted for, and all premises to be secure and safe for both patients and staff.

Yours faithfully,

CUMBERLEGE

Under Secretary of State for Health (Lords)

Department of Health

London, SW1

12 May

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