Ambulance crews will this week start wearing body worn video cameras in a trail that aims to protect personnel from violence and aggression. Incidents of abuse against ambulance staff has risen significantly over the past year.
South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) said crews in Exeter will be among those taking part in the trial which launches on October 1.
SWASFT hopes the use of cameras will deter abuse as well as help it obtain evidence of offences against ambulance staff.
If the trial is successful, the cameras could be rolled out across the South West.
There were 1,285 recorded incidents of violent or aggressive behaviour towards SWASFT staff between August 2018 and August 2019, which is an increase of 24 per cent compared to the previous year.
Ken Wenman, Chief Executive of SWASFT, said: “Like all our emergency services colleagues, our crews and control staff work in extremely difficult circumstances.
“They are often under threat of attack or abuse, and staff members are assaulted every day. That is totally unacceptable.
“We want to take every possible measure to ensure our employees are safe at work.
“Using body worn video cameras will discourage people from abusing and assaulting our staff. They will also enable us to provide evidence of abuse or assaults when they do happen so the police can bring more prosecutions against people who assault our staff.”
Any recording not used as evidence will be automatically deleted after 30 days.
Campaign highlights abuse
Emergency services across the South West launched the #Unacceptable campaign in October last year to highlight the increasing levels of abuse against crews and control room staff.
The NHS Violence Reduction Strategy 2018 aims to reduce the number of assaults by giving staff more training to deal with violent situations and prosecuting offenders more quickly.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 means those found guilty of attacking emergency services staff can be given a maximum prison sentence of 12 months. Those convicted of more serious cases of assault emergency workers can face up to two years in prison.
A recently study published by West London NHS Trust showed the wearing of the cameras led to a reduction in the seriousness of aggression and violence in reported incidents and modified patient behaviour in a positive way.
Motorola Solutions are supplying the Edesix* VB-300 body worn cameras for the trial.
Fergus Mayne, country manager for UK and Ireland at Motorola Solutions, said: “South Western Ambulance Service joins a number of organisations around the world that are looking to video and in particular body worn cameras to improve public safety.
“We’re extremely proud to be a part of this important trial that will play a vital role in protecting ambulance staff who are on the frontline every day, saving lives.”
In this video, produced by Devon and Cornwall Police in October 2018, emergency services staff share their experiences of abuse.