Thousands of ambulance crews in England will be given body cameras after a sharp rise in attacks on NHS staff treating patients, the government has announced. Data shows that 3,569 ambulance staff were physically assaulted by members of the public last year – 30% more than in 2016-17.
The plans come after successful trials in London and the north-east. The cameras will be given to crews in 10 ambulance trusts across the country. Medics will wear the cameras and be able to press a button to start recording if patients or the public become aggressive or abusive, and the film will be given to the police where needed.
Prerana Issar, the chief people officer for the NHS, said: “Every member of our dedicated and hardworking NHS staff has the fundamental right to be safe at work and it is our priority to eliminate violence and abuse, which we will not tolerate. As well as reducing the number of incidents towards our staff, these cameras are a vital step towards ensuring our people feel safe too.”
Initial findings show the cameras make staff feel safer and can help to de-escalate situations where they are faced with someone being aggressive.
Darren Green, the clinical service manager at North East ambulance service, said: “Staff safety is one of our highest priorities; if we are unable to protect our staff, we are unable to provide a service that’s fit for purpose for the public. The availability of body-worn cameras for our staff is something that we have championed for a long time and so we are delighted to have led the trial to help implement them nationally.
“Nobody comes to work to be abused, but especially not by the people they have come to help. Sadly, these cameras are needed now more than ever.”
Gary Watson, an emergency ambulance crew member who works for the London ambulance service and is based in Croydon, has been wearing a body camera as part of a trial at four ambulance stations in south and north London.
He was violently assaulted by a drunk patient in January 2018 while on duty, and suffered a torn ligament and serious injuries to his face, throat, and neck. Two other medics were also injured and a fourth was badly shaken. A man was convicted for the assault and received a suspended sentence.
Gary said: “These cameras are needed, and wearing one makes me feel safer. They act as a deterrent and will also help provide evidence if there is an attack. We go to work to help people, not to be assaulted. It’s disgusting that a minority think it’s OK to behave in such a violent way.”
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