Britain’s second largest ambulance service is equipping all frontline workers with body-cameras, following a surge in shocking attacks on paramedics.
The West Midlands Ambulance Service said there have been 1,162 physical assaults on emergency workers and 2,181 incidents of verbal abuse in the past year alone.
The worrying figures, which have skyrocketed by more than 60 percent in the past five years, prompted the service to test 30 body worn cameras in 2019.
NHS England has now provided over £1million in funding to allow the Trust to purchase 1,288 cameras for all frontline ambulance crew staff.
Trust Chief Executive Anthony Marsh said: “The safety of my employees is of paramount importance to me.
“If they are injured, they are not available to respond to patients.
“The cameras will allow employees to record incidents where they feel at risk with any recording that is an actual assault if they are able to be given in evidence.
“Hopefully, they will never have to be used, but if they are, the evidence will hopefully increase the rate of successful prosecution and subsequent convictions.
“Often my employees feel frustrated with the judicial system and this important step will help remedy that situation.”
Cameras do not record all the time and will only be turned on by ambulance staff if patients become aggressive or abusive.
Coventry paramedic Neil Wan was sedated by a patient he was trying to help with in 2017 in Nuneaton, Warks.
Thug David Neill, 33, was later jailed for six months, but Neil says having cameras could have made the situation very different:
He added: “We have cameras to protect us in case things go wrong.
“I hope I never have to turn it over, but what happened to me, it’s nice to know that I have a chance to record what happened so that a court can see.
“Most people probably won’t even know they’re there – they won’t switch on 99.9 percent of the time, but they’re there just in case.
“I’m sure had I had a camera when I was attacked, my assailant would have thought twice about attacking me.”
Be Knight who is based in Shrewsbury Hub said: “When I was attacked in May last year, I suffered a wrist injury, leaving me with a plaster for 10 days and a brace for five weeks was.
“That was seven weeks I wasn’t able to help patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we needed every member of staff available.
“Through that, having a camera that I could switch on would make me feel more secure.
“It would allow a court to look into the actions of the offender and judge for itself what happened.”
Senior Operations Manager, Graeme Jones, who ran the Trust’s pilot project in 2019,
Said: “Employees involved in the initial trial reported that the cameras made them feel safe and were useful in situations where a patient or member of the public began to become aggressive.
“Just saying they were going to turn on the camera often calmed situations very quickly.
“The fact that we didn’t catch any footage after hundreds of innings is probably the best result we could have hoped for.
“Obviously it’s better for people not to be hurt than for us to use the footage as part of the prosecution.”
NHS Chief Public Officer Prerna Issar 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.
“As well as reducing the number of incidents against our employees, these cameras are an important step towards making our people feel safe as well.”
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