Staff in the emergency department at the John Radcliffe Hospital are to be given body cameras as part of a trial to crack down on abusive behaviour.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has seen a surge in violent and aggressive behaviour aimed at staff. In November 2020, there were 80 reported incidents - but by November 2021 this had risen by 125% to 180 reported incidents.
Cameras are already worn by security staff, but as part of a three-month trial, designated medical staff in the emergency department will also be given the devices.
Frontline staff on shift, who have been provided with training, will wear the camera on their uniform in clear view. The camera will be switched on only when an individual is being violent or abusive, and only after they have been told that they will be recorded.
The cameras are smaller than a smartphone and are worn to help deter patients and visitors from being aggressive. Oxford University Hospitals says it hopes they will create a safer environment for all.
In addition, the devices can also help provide evidence to identify and prosecute any offenders.
Body cameras are already worn by staff at other NHS Trusts.
Terry Roberts, chief people officer at OUH, said: "Our staff have been absolutely incredible throughout the Covid-19 pandemic; consistently putting the needs of our patients before their own; and every member of our dedicated and hardworking staff has the fundamental right to be safe at work and it is our priority to eliminate violence and abuse.
"As well as reducing the number of incidents towards our staff, these cameras are a vital step in ensuring patients feel safe too."
The body camera trial is running alongside a new campaign to urge people using local healthcare services to treat staff with respect.
The 'There's No Excuse' initiative highlights the impact that abusive behaviour can have on NHS staff during the course of their work.
Susan Parkinson, chair of Staff Side and Unison convenor at OUH, said: "This 'No Excuses' message is essential for our staff – no-one should go to a workplace where they are treated aggressively. Everyone at OUH has the right to feel safe, considered, and listened to.”
Sam Foster, chief nursing officer at OUH, said: "Everyone should be entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe and free from aggression or abuse. The majority of people treated by our staff are grateful for the care they receive, and we're grateful to them for continuing to give staff the respect and kindness they deserve.
"However, we have seen an increase in aggression and abuse towards our health and care staff in a range of settings. This is completely unacceptable, and the campaign message is very clear that it will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
"Abuse takes many forms – it doesn't have to be physical violence. Verbal abuse and aggression can be just as damaging, and can take a huge toll on someone's wellbeing – in time, this wears people down and can potentially lead to increased sickness and absence."
Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the county's independent health and social care watchdog, is urging caution.
Executive Director Rosalind Pearce told ITV Meridian: "Healthwatch Oxfordshire doesn’t condone violent or abusive behaviour towards staff in any setting, and feels it is a real shame that it has come to this."
"We would want to know what impact the use of body cameras has on reducing instances of this kind of behaviour and ask OUH to publish the outcomes at the end of this trial.
"I’m sure patients would also like to be assured that the recordings will be held securely and only ever used if OUH has to take further action."