Ambulance crews in the North West are set to be equipped with body worn video cameras in a bid to reduce violence and aggression against frontline staff.
As part of a national pilot, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) will be rolling out the cameras from 31 March. It will start in areas that see the highest number of incidents of abuse against staff.
Central Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of Merseyside will be the first to use the new kit. Medics will be able to press a button to record if a patient or member of the public becomes threatening or aggressive. The footage can then be used in court to aid prosecutions.
Paramedic Kristoffer Fairhurst, based in Burnley, will be among the first to use the cameras. He said, “Sadly it is all too common for frontline staff to be subject to violence by the very people we are trying to help. I have worked for the ambulance service for 13 years and during that time I have been kicked, spat at, shouted at and even threatened with a knife.
“This should not be happening and I am hoping that these cameras will give us an extra level of protection to deter incidents of abuse as well as assist with prosecutions and make staff feel safer.”
In 2020, almost 400 incidents of physical assaults were reported against staff in the North West, a rise of 4% since 2018 despite lockdown measures in place. In addition, there were 1061 incidents of verbal abuse or threatening behaviour reported.
Director of Operations Ged Blezard said, “Our staff work day in, day out to protect and care for their patients, they do not deserve to be subject to abuse and assaults.
“It’s a top priority for us to keep our staff safe and this is a huge step towards reducing violence and aggression against them. Not only will this aid in prosecutions of offenders but it is hoped to help de-escalate situations and avoid attacks from even taking place.”
NWAS has a dedicated violence and aggression group that has been set up to proactively target frequent offenders and work with the police and partner agencies to put sanctions in place where possible.