The Metropolitan Police Service is to train NHS staff to become special constables, to help them patrol hospital grounds and increase security.
The Hospital Watch initiative will initially see support and security staff from the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust in Camden being trained to work alongside experienced officers, patrolling around their own hospital sites.
Under the scheme, the trust will allow support staff paid time off to patrol with experienced officers in and around their own hospital one day every fortnight. Volunteers will be trained by experienced police trainers and given the same powers as regular officers.
Andrew Way, chief executive at the Royal Free, said: “A great deal of work has already been done within the trust to improve the security of staff and patients.”
Neil Barrett, head of employer-supported policing at the Met, said a number of London NHS trusts were now talking to the force about implementing the scheme at their hospitals.
The body responsible for security across the NHS – the Security Management Service – recently defended its record of security training after Personnel Today revealed that only 85,000 out of 750,000 staff had been taught conflict resolution techniques.
A spokesman for the service said the scheme had been complicated to set up, and he was confident the body would hit its 2008 deadline for training all frontline staff.