Speaking at Unison's Scottish health and safety conference, Scottish organiser Jim Devine said: 'Every day district nurses, health visitors, social workers, occupational therapists and care assistants visit clients/patients in their home.
'The overall aim of any policy would be obviously to prevent injury and damage to staff and that is why Unison are attracted to the 'Guardian Angel' protection project which is being piloted at St John's Hospital in West Lothian. While the name of this scheme is somewhat unfortunate, the process has many potential benefits for staff.
'In West Lothian over 300 NHS staff are protected by the scheme. In practice, when they visit a patient/client at home, they place through a paging system the name and address of that patient/client and the duration of their visit. If that nurse, occupational therapist or health visitor does not contact the switchboard after their visit an alarm system begins to operate. Included in this alert system is the ability to listen to 45 seconds of conversation between the nurse and the patient/client. This information would obviously be vital if a district nurse or health visitor was being confronted by a patient who, for example, had produced a knife.
'This pilot has been operational for many months now and our members are claiming it to be a great success. It adds to their security when visiting clients/patients in their homes, when in some cases no previous information on the individual's background is known.
'We believe that this could be a useful tool in the campaign to reduce potentially violent incidents against health service workers in Scotland and are calling on the Scottish executive to extend this project to other parts of the public sector.'