Thousands of ambulance crews across the country will be provided with body cameras as part of an NHS crackdown to reduce attacks on staff.
The introduction of the cameras comes alongside data that 3,569 ambulance staff were physically assaulted by the public last year – 30% more than five years ago.
Following successful trials in London and the North East, the NHS in England will roll out the cameras to crews in the 10 ambulance trusts across the country – three years ahead of the NHS Long Term Plan target.
Medics will wear the cameras and be able to press a button to start recording if patients or the public become aggressive or abusive, with filming made available to police where needed.
The announcement follows the launch of the first ever national Violence Prevention and Reduction Standard at the beginning of the year, with every NHS trust in the country expected to publish a plan to tackle violence towards staff.
Prerana Isaar, 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.
“The fact that we are rolling them out to all ten ambulance trusts three years ahead of schedule is testament to our commitment to tackling this problem and is nothing less than our staff deserve.”
Initial trial findings show the cameras make staff feel safer and can assist in de-escalating situations where staff are faced with someone being aggressive towards them.
Darren Green, 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 we serve. 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.”
Emergency Ambulance Crew member Gary Watson works for London Ambulance Service and is based in Croydon. He has been wearing a body camera as part of a trial that launched this year at four ambulance stations in South and North London, in which crews wear the devices.
Gary was violently assaulted by a drunk patient in January 2018, while on duty. He suffered a torn ligament and serious injuries to his face, throat and neck in the attack. Two other medics were also injured and a fourth badly shaken. A man was convicted, receiving 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.”
Chief Executive of London Ambulance Service, Garrett Emmerson, said: “Protecting staff and volunteers on the road is a top priority for our Service. Whilst the vast majority of our patients and the public treat our crews and call handlers with immense respect, a small minority do not.
“Sadly, in the last year, over 600 of our ambulance crews were the victim of physical abuse whilst providing care to Londoners. We very much welcome NHS England’s decision to accelerate the roll out of body-worn cameras nationally, which we hope will both deter incidents and ensure the appropriate prosecution and sentencing of those who attack our people.”
The rollout comes after a year in which NHS staff have treated more than 400,000 COVID patients while continuing to see millions of patients for non-COVID conditions and successfully deliver the world’s first vaccination programme.