A PARAMEDIC from Coventry knocked unconscious after being attacked by a patient he was trying to help has welcomed the decision to roll out body-worn cameras to all frontline ambulance staff.
Neil Vann’s attacker was jailed for six months but he said having the cameras could have made a difference at the time.
“The cameras are there to protect us in case things turn nasty.
“I hope I never have to switch it on, but given what happened to me, it is nice to know that I have the chance to record what happened so that a court can see.
“The vast majority of people probably won’t know they are even there – they won’t be switched on in 99.9 per cent of occasions, but they are there just in case.
“I feel sure that had I had a camera when I was assaulted, my assailant might have thought twice about attacking me.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service announced yesterday that £1million of NHS England funding would secure 1,288 cameras – enough for all its frontline staff.
Between 2020 and 2021 there were 1,162 physical attacks recorded on ambulance staff and 2,181 cases of verbal abuse – up from 944 and 1,536 respectively on the previous year,
In the past five years, physical attacks have risen by over 60 per cent and verbal assaults have more than doubled.
WMAS ran a pilot using 30 cameras in 2019 which fed into the decision by NHS England to roll the cameras out across the country.
The cameras will not record all the time – staff can switch them on when faced with an aggressive or abusive person. A red light will show it is recording.
Trust Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said staff safety was of paramount importance as if they were injured they would be unable to respond to patients.
“The cameras will allow staff to record incidents where they feel at risk with any recordings being able to be given in evidence should an actual assault occur.
“Hopefully, they will never have to be used, but if they are, the evidence will hopefully increase the rate of successful prosecutions and subsequent sentencing.
“All too often my staff feel let down by the judicial system and this important step will help to redress that situation.”
Bee Knight who is based at Shrewsbury Hub, added: “When I was attacked in May last year, I suffered a wrist injury that left me in plaster for 10 days and a brace for five weeks.
“That was seven weeks that I wasn’t able to help patients during the Covid-19 pandemic when we needed every member of staff available.”
She added: “Having been through that, having a camera that I could switch on would make me feel much safer. It would allow a court to see the actions of the offender and judge for themselves what happened.”
Senior Operations Manager, Graeme Jones, ran the Trust’s pilot project in 2019. He said: “The staff involved in the initial trial reported that the cameras made them feel safer and were useful in de-escalating situations where a patient or member of the public started to become aggressive; just saying that they were going to turn on the camera often calmed situations down very rapidly.
“The fact that after hundreds of shifts we hadn’t caught any footage is probably the best result we could have hoped for; clearly it is much better for people not to be hurt than for us to have to use footage as part of a prosecution.”
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.”
- What do you think should be done to protect paramedics and other frontline ambulance and NHS staff? Are body-worn cameras the answer? What other ideas could be used? And what sentences do you think should be handed out to those abusing and attacking healthcare workers? Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
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