NHS Ambulance Services Body Worn Camera Trials

NHS Ambulance Services

Body Worn Camera Trials

On Tuesday 28 January I attended a seminar in London on the Trial of Body Worn Cameras hosted by the NHS in conjunction with Rand Europe who are based in Cambridge and who will be carrying out the evaluation of the Trials.

In June 2018, the Secretary of State announced £8 million funding to pilot the use of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) to keep NHS staff safe while at work and in October launched the Violence Reduction Strategy. In January 2019 the NHS Long Term Plan emphasised “We will pilot and evaluate the use of body worn cameras by ambulance crews and where justified will always seek to prosecute incidents of verbal and physical abuse”.

Data gathered from all ten Ambulance Services evidenced the escalating level of violence and aggression against ambulance staff:

As can be seen from the chart above, East of England Ambulance Service has consistently recorded the fourth highest level of violence and aggression against its staff over the past five years increasing annually, which is unacceptable and shameful.

The first phase of the BWC Trial has commenced with North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and London Ambulance Service (LAS); Phase Two will involve East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS), West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) and South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAS). The final phase will involve Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS), East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), South West Ambulance Service (SWAS) and South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS).

During the Trial period information will be monitored including the:

Number of staff reporting violence and aggression incidents
Types of violence & aggression eg physical / verbal / medical / non-medical related
Number of complaints from patients, relatives, members of the public (service users)
Number of successful sanctions / prosecutions against offenders
Staff sickness rates (resulting from violence and aggression at work)
Staff retention rates

It has been noted that since the Police introduced BWC’s to its staff there has been a 15% decrease in complaints from members of the public against their personnel wearing BWCs.

Before BWCs can be introduced there must be a robust Policy and Procedure covering the use, storage, access, Governance and compliance with regulations; sharing of information on these matters should expedite the completion of administration and secure staff-side support in its usage.

There are a number of different Body Worn Camera types currently on the open market, they are of variable sizes and dimensions, can be attached to lanyards, safety helmets or shirt loops; some have a screen on the front showing what is being recorded and some have a playback facility. Following the trial-period it is anticipated that the BWC which best suits our needs will be selected.

It is a sad reflection of society that ambulance crews who dedicate their lives to treating the injured are themselves becoming victims of not just physical or verbal assaults, but also of racial, sexual and homophobic abuse. An additional benefit of BWCs is that they may become a visual deterrent and may de-escalate situations, reducing anti-social behaviour, allowing our clinicians to work in a safer environment, without fearing their shift might end, not at their base station, but in the accident & emergency department as a patient themselves.

Our service is due to take part in phase 2 of the Trial and more details of that will follow.

Jeff Pittman

Senior Paramedic

Unison Health & Safety Officer