Paramedics in England to wear body cameras to help reduce attacks on frontline workers

ITV News Senior Correspondent John Ray reports on the shocking abuse some paramedics have received while on shift

Paramedics in England are to be fitted with body cameras in order to prevent thousands of attacks on frontline staff each year.

More than 3,500 ambulance staff reported being assaulted in the last year, a 32% rise from five years ago.

Medics will wear the cameras and be able to press a button to start recording if patients or the public became aggressive or abusive, with filming made available to police where needed.

It is hoped staff will feel safer wearing the equipment.

Paramedics and other frontline ambulance staff in London and the North East have been trialling the use of the cameras.

Shocking footage released by emergency services in the East Midlands last June shows the moment a man violently attacks two paramedics in the back of an ambulance

After the successful pilot, the NHS is rolling out body cams to frontline ambulance staff across the country in a bid to curb violence against staff.

The trials also showed that the cameras can assist in de-escalating situations where staff are faced with someone being aggressive towards them, the NHS said.

Emergency Ambulance Crew member Gary Watson, who works for London Ambulance Service in Croydon, was violently assaulted by a drunk patient in 2018 while on duty.

Mr Watson suffered a torn ligament and serious injuries to his face, throat and neck in the attack.

Gary Watson has been assaulted while on duty. Credit: PA

Two other medics were also injured and a fourth badly shaken. A man was convicted, receiving a suspended sentence.

Mr Watson, who was part of the trial assessing the use of the body cams, said: “These cameras are needed and wearing one makes me feel safer.

"They act as a deterrent and will also help provide evidence if there is an attack.

“We go to work to help people, not to be assaulted.

"It’s disgusting that a minority think it’s OK to behave in such a violent way.”

Richard Ilderton, a paramedic at North East Ambulance Service told ITV Tyne Tees he has been assaulted while working, "same as a lot of ambulance staff have been".

He detailed one incident where he was forced out of someone's house after the person disagreed with his crew's decision with regards their treatment.

Ambulance staff will be able to turn the cameras on with a button. Credit: PA

He said: "They've got up, they've punched us, they've grabbed us, they've shoved us towards the door."

He continued: "When you're going in to help somebody and they become aggressive towards and start threatening you, it's upsetting, it's saddening. It makes you question what you've come into. You've come in to help people, look after people, and to have that then turn back at you with anger and sometimes violence - it's just really disheartening."

Speaking about bodycam cameras, he said: "It has worked as a deterrant. People have realised they're being recorded so they've calmed down, they've altered their behaviour or they've just got out the way."

Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS in England, said: “Every member of our dedicated and hardworking NHS staff has the fundamental right to be safe at work and it is our priority to eliminate violence and abuse, which we will not tolerate.

“As well as reducing the number of incidents towards our staff, these cameras are a vital step towards ensuring our people feel safe too.

“The fact that we are rolling them out to all ten ambulance trusts three years ahead of schedule is testament to our commitment to tackling this problem and is nothing less than our staff deserve.”

Darren Green, clinical service manager at North East Ambulance Service, said: “Staff safety is one of our highest priorities; if we are unable to protect our staff, we are unable to provide a service that’s fit for purpose for the public we serve.

“The availability of body-worn cameras for our staff is something that we have championed for a long time and so we are delighted to have led the trial to help implement them nationally.

“Nobody comes to work to be abused, but especially not by the people they have come to help.

"Sadly, these cameras are needed now more than ever.”

Commenting on the announcement, Unison’s deputy head of health, Helga Pile, said: “Ambulance staff who’re looking after sick and vulnerable patients should never have to face violence and abuse while doing their jobs.

"Body cameras can help to ensure their safety and bring attackers to justice.”

The move follows an initiative launched earlier this year which tasked every NHS trust in the country to publish a plan to tackle violence towards staff.