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Personal safety when working alone: guidance for members working in health and social care

Many nursing staff will spend time working alone for some or all of their day. A move towards mobile working, with greater use of technology such as laptops and tablets, and more community based care means that the numbers working alone have the potential to increase. Cost-saving measures including reductions in staffing levels have also led to increased lone working.

Nursing staff who work alone for long or even short periods of time are more vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse. RCN members have described finding themselves in frightening situations where they have little information on the patient they are visiting or are driving through unfamiliar areas at night trying to find an address or somewhere safe to park or even trying to reach patients in areas where civil disorder is taking place. Members also find themselves in situations where they are alone in an isolated health care building, seeing patients who are becoming aggressive.

Lone working is a reality for many nursing staff but with appropriate measures taken by employers, alongside practical steps taken by nursing staff, the risks can be reduced.

This short guide has been developed for members who work alone but also contains a checklist for RCN safety representatives who work on negotiating
improvements to workplace safety for members (Appendix 2) and nurse managers who manage lone working staff (Appendix 3). For those wanting more in-depth information on lone working, there is a list of sources of further information in the back of the guide.