From today 30,000 lone workers will carry device which, when activated, will identify the location of the user and open an audio link to a trained call centre operator who can summon help if needed.
The call centre will legally be able to listen to and record events as they unfold, which will allow workers to bring prosecutions more easily.
Health secretary Alan Johnson, said: “No NHS staff should have to put up with violence in the workplace, but sadly it happens. Lone workers are particularly vulnerable and I am determined to provide them with as much protection as we can to enable them to carry out their valuable work knowing that they have the support they need, should their personal safety be threatened.”
The alarms will initially be targeted at community workers who work with patients and their families who have a history of violence, alcohol or drug abuse, and those who work in areas with high crime rates.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the alarms should be part of a wider strategy to combat violence against NHS staff. He said: “[The devices] must be used alongside a well planned and supported lone worker policy and training for all those using them.”
The latest NHS staff survey found that violence against NHS employees had not improved for four consecutive years, as 12% of workers reported experiencing physical abuse from patients and their relatives.