Capsicum foam recommended for NSW hospitals

A review of safety at NSW hospitals has recommended allowing security staff to use capsicum foam in “threatening situations”.

Brad Hazzard

The report by former Health and Police Minister Peter Anderson was released on Monday, a year after it was completed and following additional consultation with stakeholders.

The report had input from staff at 44 hospitals and builds on the recommendations of a 2019 interim report.

Mr Anderson says the question of defensive equipment for hospital staff is a “vexed one.

He says capsicum spray isn’t appropriate – because it can affect other people in the area – and rules out handcuffs and batons.

However, he recommends trialing capsicum foam, which coats the skin rather having an aerosol form.

“A strictly controlled trial of the use of this foam should be undertaken,” Mr Anderson recommends.

“The foam would be discreetly carried and only produced/used in situations where staff are in imminent danger and cannot withdraw from the situation and no other reasonable method is at hand to defend themselves.”

Pen-sized pain-inducing control sticks should also be considered for a trial.

The foam and control stick should only be available to senior and appropriately trained staff.

Personal body cameras and CCTV

Mr Anderson says personal body cameras, which are currently being trialed on NSW paramedics, should be considered pending evaluation of that trial.

The report also recommends a formal “Code Black” procedure for all NSW hospitals to respond to incidents of aggression similar to the “Code Grey” used in Victoria.

“Evidence exists to strongly support a requirement for Code Blacks to be regularly rehearsed as a multidisciplinary/inter-professional team so that staff who work together can practise their skills together,” Mr Anderson says.

He also says Local Health Districts should consider establishing a districtwide, 24-hour CCTV operation and calls on the government to consider trialling it in at least two districts.

A current trial of CCTV monitoring at Blacktown Hospital should be taken into account.

Support for recommendations

Health minster Brad Hazzard says the recommendations of the report are ‘generally supported’.

“NSW Health will continue to work closely with staff, unions and other Government agencies to see these recommendations are actioned and implemented,” he said.

Mr Hazzard said he will also introduce additional security measures including requiring Local Health Districts to reduce their use of contract security state in favour of permanent staff.

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