999 – the number for UoW security

I was recently involved in an incident in my
halls of residence that resulted in me phoning
for an ambulance. However, in accordance with
the University’s policy, campus security responded
instead of an ambulance or first aider. I believe
that this policy is dangerous and irresponsible,
for reasons I will elucidate. Before I do, though,
I would like to make clear that the security
officers who responded to the incident in my
halls were courteous and professional, and that
my issue is with the policy of sending security
officers to medical emergencies, not with the
service they provided in this instance.

Warwick University apparently has this
policy for two reasons, both of which are admittedly
quite sensible: first, to have a medically
trained person (Warwick security officers hold
First Aid at Work certificates) providing care in
genuine emergencies as quickly as possible, and
second, to have such an individual assess a situation
to determine whether an ambulance is actually
needed. Both these goals are respectable and
should be retained.

Despite this, there is a fundamental problem
with sending someone as a first responder to a
medical emergency whose primary role is the
enforcement of rules and laws. When Security responded
to my halls, there was an implication that
had we been doing anything illegal or in violation
of University rules, we could have been reported
and punished for it. I was shocked by this —not
only does it breach guidelines surrounding patient
confidentiality; it means you cannot get urgent
medical assistance on campus without also
being subjected to scrutiny by Security.
Patient confidentiality means that what
someone tells a healthcare provider is shared
only between those directly involved in that person’s
care. It exists so that patients can trust that
the information they share with someone helping
them does not, for example, end up on the
front page of a newspaper or lead to their arrest
and prosecution. NHS ambulance crews, as well
as any reputable first aid providers, cannot share
patient information with police or other third
parties except in very exceptional circumstances.
Why should those of us living on campus be
subjected to a very different set of standards, in
which such information is routinely shared with
University authorities?

The fact that Security respond to medical
emergencies not only as fi rst aiders but also as
law enforcement means that the patients that
they treat are more likely to not share incriminating
information, regardless of how relevant
that information might be to their care. For example,
if a student had taken an overdose of illegal drugs,
they would be unable to receive medical attention
without also being punished by University authorities
and possibly police. Even if the infraction were minor
—hosting an unauthorised party in halls, for example—
Security would still be within their remit to punish
the hosts when called for a medical emergency.

The University needs to build trust in the
confidentiality of information and create amnesty
from punishment when students request medical
attention. There should either be a team of
dedicated first aiders —people whose role is not
to enforce rules— to respond to such requests, or
a change in policy so that Security cannot punish
students for infractions witnessed when dealing
with medical emergencies. Only then will
students be able to feel safe when phoning for
medical aid.

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