Paramedics are to be equipped with body cameras to prevent thousands of attacks on frontline workers each year, including at three sites in Cambridgeshire.
Even as NHS workers risked their lives to help the country in times of need during the coronavirus pandemic, they were still being attacked while attending emergency call-outs.
Data from the NHS in England showed that 3,569 ambulance workers were assaulted in 2020/21 – a 32 per cent increase from five years ago.
In East Anglia, there were 344 cases of physical abuse, assault or violence against paramedics recorded by the East of England Ambulance Service between April 2020 and March 2021.
This is a slight increase from the figure of 313 in the same period a year ago.
Body cams will be installed at 19 ambulance stations in the east by the ambulance service starting later this month. In Cambridgeshire, they would first be driven to Cambridge and Huntingdon ambulance stations as well as to nearby Peterborough.
It is hoped that staff will feel safe wearing the equipment, which they can turn on with the press of a button if the patient or public becomes aggressive or abusive, providing filming to police where needed.
After a successful trial in London and the North-East, the NHS is rolling out body cams to frontline ambulance workers across the country. Tests have also shown that the cameras can assist in de-escalating situations, the NHS said.
Gary Watson, a member of the emergency ambulance crew working for the London Ambulance Service in Croydon, was violently attacked by a drunk patient while on duty in 2018. Mr Watson’s ligament was torn in the attack and he suffered serious injuries to his face, throat and neck.
Mr Watson, who was part of a trial assessing the use of body cams, said: “These cameras are needed, and wearing one makes me feel safe. They act as a deterrent and if there is an attack. If so, it would also help in providing evidence.
“We go to work to help people, not to attack. It is disgusting that minorities think that it is okay to behave in such a violent manner.”
Prerna Isser, Chief Public Officer for the NHS in England, said: “Every member of our dedicated and hardworking NHS staff has a fundamental right to be safe at work and it is our priority to end violence and abuse, which we will not tolerate.
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Darren Green, clinical service manager for North East Ambulance Service, said: “Staff safety is one of our top priorities; if we are unable to protect our employees, we are unable to provide the service that we serve. be suitable for the purpose of the public.
“The availability of body-worn cameras for our employees is something we have long championed and so we are pleased to lead the trial to help implement them nationally.
“No one comes to work to be abused, but especially not by the people they’ve come to help with. Sadly, these cameras are needed now more than ever.”
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