Keeping our babies secure: the delicate business of maternity ward security

Mar 4, 2021

Working with the NHS requires a completely different approach to security. It’s not just a case of turning up, getting a ladder out and installing equipment. There’s a lot more preparation and planning involved, more procedures to follow, plus the need to be super-efficient with the time you spend in the departments too. In a maternity ward, this level of work is even more important as it’s such a sensitive area. Inside it are the most precious of guests – our newborns. Maternity ward security has hit the headlines countless times over the years, and the stakes are high. Learn how Oracle Vision protects our bundles of joy in this article by Oracle Vision co-founder, Chris Lakin.

A balancing act

On a maternity ward, you have three sets of people to think about; the staff, the patients and the visitors. There are new mums in an extremely vulnerable position, as well as babies who are only a few minutes old – they both need to be kept safe. Conversely, you have regular members of the public coming to visit (that is, pre and hopefully post-Covid). There has to be a balance between not feeling like you’re locking people in, while also making sure that they feel safe.

The balance is especially important for mothers in labour, who want to feel calm and relaxed as they bring their child into the world. Hospitals work hard to make sure the environment is open, welcoming and as relaxing as possible. So, it’s important that we’re able to weave our five-step plan into their existing infrastructure.
It’s about automating as much as possible, so that the nurses are free to do what they do best, which is caring for the mothers, babies and visitors in the ward. Having inadequate access control pulls them away from doing their jobs effectively.

There needs to be a degree of flexibility in where people can go whilst also managing anyone who’s not authorised to come in. A lot of it begins with getting the signposting right, making sure that the security measures in place allow people to move around in a safe way.

It’s all about the layers

Starting from outside the ward, it’s important to kick off with a top-notch access control system. As the first step in the maternity ward’s security, it’s the most important aspect to get right the first time. That may mean key cards or fobs for staff, as well as an intercom or video system for visitors to gain access too. This way, the people who are authorised to be there can easily get in, but it keeps out anyone who isn’t supposed to be there. Sometimes it’s even about managing access for people who previously were authorised, and perhaps their access levels need to be changed. It’s imperative to use a variety of systems so that staff can both visually and audibly authorise access for people. Once they’ve been verified, staff may be able to press a button to open the doors or they may come down to meet them and let them in.

The next layer can be a sort of holding place, such as a reception area, waiting room or a desk. There may be physical barriers too such as a counter or a glass window. This is an important space where credentials can be checked using automated or manual processes, and identifying information can be given. As a maternity ward, this area should be welcoming and friendly, but don’t be fooled by the warm façade – it’s a critical step in the ward’s security.

As a person gets further in, the staff are responsible for managing alarm systems. In this layer, the technology becomes much more covert and applied, to ensure it’s sensitive to the privacy of the people in the ward.

Maternity Ward Lockdown

If a member of staff finds that there’s been a breach of security – perhaps someone tailgated to gain access – then they can press a button that will instantly lock the doors. This would create a lockdown process which can then stop any security breach that’s taking place. Given the nature of a maternity ward, security processes need to be gentler, personalised and much more friendly. There needs to be a human element to a lockdown, in combination with technology, making sure they’re firmly integrated. Ultimately though, the response and actions need to be immediate, so although the staff will try to keep the situation low-key, they will always explain what’s happening to the patients to ensure that they feel safe and comfortable. What you don’t want is to cause panic, but the hope is that with all the other security measures in place, that an intruder would be dealt with swiftly.

Every scenario will be completely different, but as soon as the staff press that panic button, the unauthorised person has nowhere to go. They can’t move forward or backwards, so it’s almost like creating a holding pen in which to keep them until security arrives. The principle is that when you’re when you’re in a normal state, the access control system is looking to keep people out. Unless you’re unauthorised and in its triggered state then it’s looking to keep people in.

A huge part of maternity ward security comes down to staff training. They receive training on how to recognise and identify an unauthorised person or potential breach, as well as how to deal with them while they’re waiting for security to arrive. The training focuses on Alerting, Stopping and Containing. This must work in tandem with whichever technology we install for the optimum protection.

We’re proud to support key workers

We always pride ourselves on our design process. However, with some hospitals being heritage buildings, it’s important that we’re respectful of the building design whilst planning for maximum security protection. It takes experience to carefully balance our processes with the unique set-up of the site concerned.

We have years of experience looking after the security of key workers and patients in hospitals and we do it with a level of sensitivity and dedication that other companies can’t compete with. We’re proud of how we integrate our processes with the ones already in place. We understand the challenges that hospitals face, and aim to get everything done right the first time.

Maternity wards have responsibility for protecting these precious babies, and when it comes to security in these spaces – nobody wants to take any chances. Oracle Vision is expert in ensuring the maximum possible protection for these very special and unique places.


If you’d like to learn more about our expertise in maternity ward security, the health sector and other industries, please get in touch. We’d love to have a chat about how we can bring that knowledge and experience to your site.