Paramedics to trial body cameras after 23% rise in physical assaults

Scheme involving 40 front-line staff seen as a ‘really positive measure’
Violence towards paramedics

Scheme involving 40 front-line staff seen as a ‘really positive measure’

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Paramedics in the north east of England will wear body cameras for three months in an initiative to tackle violence and aggression towards staff.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) NHS Foundation Trust has given the cameras to around 40 of its front-line employees.

The scheme was established following a 23% rise in the number of physical assaults on NEAS staff in the past year. 

Camera footage obtained in the event of an assault or abuse will be admissible as evidence in court.

Positive step

NEAS paramedic and clinical care manager Ben Barber said: ‘Unfortunately these incidents are increasing and I see this as a really positive measure.

‘Some of the intimidating situations that I have previously been presented with could have been deescalated with cameras, or vital evidence could have been obtained to support further action taken after the incident.’

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill is due to come into force next month, meaning people found guilty of common assault on emergency workers could face a maximum prison term of a year rather than six months.

RCN national officer Kim Sunley said there were 75,000 assaults against NHS staff in 2016-17, and anything that reduces the high incidence of violence is worth exploring.

‘No one should be assaulted at work,’ she said. ‘These attacks can cause severe injury, as well as mental trauma that can last for years. Yet too often assaults are seen as part of the job by employers.

‘Our members have reported some truly horrific incidents. One nurse was beaten so severely she was knocked unconscious. It took six colleagues to pull the patient off her and for weeks she was too traumatised to leave her house. It was months before she could return to the nursing front line.’

Ms Sunley added: ‘We would like to see further pilot schemes across the UK to build up a good body of evidence about the use of body cameras. Concerns over privacy and confidentiality must be addressed effectively before any wider roll-out of cameras is considered.’

The use of body cameras in nursing was the subject of heated debate at this year’s RCN congress.

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