Nottingham mental health hospital porters made to 'risk lives' acting as security guards

Entrance to Highbury Hospital in Highbury Vale, near Bulwell in Nottingham
Highbury Hospital in Highbury Vale, near Bulwell in Nottingham -Credit:Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post

Porters at a scandal-hit Nottingham mental health hospital are "putting their lives at risk" by being forced to act as security guards, a union has claimed. The staff, who work at Highbury Hospital in Bulwell, are reportedly having to respond to potentially dangerous incidents involving knives.

Unison, which represents porters at the Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT)-run hospital, said their safety concerns had been dismissed by their contractor, Aramark. Both NHFT and Aramark said they were working with the union to find a solution.

Highbury Hospital specialises in the assessment and treatment of adults detained under the Mental Health Act, as well as caring for patients with dementia. More than 30 staff were suspended over allegations of poor care and the falsification of patient records, it was revealed in January.

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The facility, which cared for Valdo Calocane before he went on to kill three people, was also downgraded to 'inadequate' by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March. Unison claimed its porters, whose usual job description includes cleaning, delivering equipment and moving patients, were made to complete the same training offered to nightclub bouncers.

Rachel Perry-Doyle, East Midlands regional organiser at Unison, said porters were being sent to serious incidents "armed with nothing but a walkie-talkie". She added: "Aramark must stop putting staff in these situations and recruit properly trained security guards, instead of relying on the good will of porters.”

Gordon, one of the porters, said: “I’ve been threatened at work so many times now that I’m constantly looking over my shoulder when I’m on shift. You never know who could walk into the hospital and what they might do. This can’t carry on.”

The union's branch secretary for NHFT Andrea Dickens added: “Hospital porters are the heartbeat of NHS hospitals, making sure patients are at the right place at the right time to get the treatment they need. They shouldn’t be made to put their lives at risk on a daily basis while earning barely above the minimum wage.”

Alison Wyld, executive director of finance and estates at NHFT, said: “The safety of our patients and staff is our priority. We highly value the contribution our porters make and are working with Aramark and Unison to ensure that the concerns raised by these members of staff are heard and that a satisfactory resolution is found for everyone involved.”

A spokesperson for Aramark said: "At Highbury Hospital, the safety and well-being of our porters, who are employed by the NHS and managed by Aramark, is of the utmost importance to us. We are working closely with NHFT and Unison to address the situation promptly."

A special review was ordered into NHFT by the government after concerns were raised over its care of Nottingham attacks killer Calocane. The first part of the report found mental health patients and members of the public are being put at risk of harm due to poor access to care