'The moment paramedic's bodyworn camera switches on, attitudes change': Devices are reducing attacks

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Body-worn cameras for North East ambulance crews are helping prevent attacks on paramedics, a meeting has heard.

Cases of violence and aggression against North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) emergency staff have risen from 33 cases in November 2017 to 46 in October 2018.

The rise prompted NEAS to follow the lead of other emergency services by fitting 40 of its front-line staff with cameras as part of a three-month trial. Mark Cotton, assistant director at NEAS, told councillors how the devices were having the desired effect at Tuesday's Tees Valley Health Scrutiny Committee (December 11).

He added:

"What we have found from speaking to one crew is the moment they turned the camera on, the patient in front of them and their attitude immediately changed - so it is having that deterring effect. Patients are now realising that they are being filmed and we will use that for prosecutions if necessary."

NEAS was the first ambulance service in the country to bring in body cameras after the number of attacks increased by 25% on last year. Teesside paramedics have spoken of being threatened with needles and knives - as well as enduring being spat at while at work.

Mr Cotton said NEAS staff did "a fantastic job" on the front line but added violence and aggression was gradually on the rise. He said there could be a number reasons behind the increase - including links to drugs and alcohol.

And he also revealed there had been an increase in staff actively wanting to wear body cameras since their introduction in October. "We had 40 members of staff volunteer to wear a body cameras on their tunics - they switch it on at the moment in time when they have a concern around their own safety - it's not always on," explained Mr Cotton.

"The bright light flashes and it's very obvious to the patient in front of them that it's on. We've had another 15 staff come forward in the trial wanting to take part and it's really encouraging."

"We've had some really positive feedback from crews. As far as I'm aware there's been one case we've had to review and there was a decision not to take that forward for prosecution."

A decision on whether to extend the use of the cameras will be taken after the trial ends in the new year.


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