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  1. ITV Report

North East paramedics to wear body cams as attacks rise

Body cams Photo: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has become the first in the country to trial body cams to counter attacks on paramedics.

In the last year reports of physical assaults on paramedics in the region have increased by 23 per cent compared to last year.

Forty emergency NEAS staff will have access to the body cams when on calls and if an incident unfolds they can record both vision and sound, which can later be used as evidence if a prosecution is pursued.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Paramedic, Ben Barber, is one of the first emergency workers to use the cameras.

He has been attacked when responding to 999 calls and welcomes the introduction of the the three month trial.

I see the cameras as a really good thing. Hopefully it will keep us safer in our work place. I attended an incident where the patient became very violent and aggressive towards me and the crew, damaging the equipment before leaving the property and punching the ambulance on the way to leaving the property. That could quite easily have been one of us.

– Ben Barber, Paramedic
Paramedic Credit: ITV News

The North East Ambulance Service reported 531 violence, aggression and assault incidents in 2017/18.

This financial year there has been an increase, with 320 reported incidents so far.

Since December 2017, 139 warning letters have been sent to violent patients, with 18 letters of apology returned.

We've had staff kicked, punched, spat at, grappled to the floor in headlocks and, sadly, we have had staff who have had to leave operational duties, because of injuries they have received. The main priority for me is to deter, so I'd be very happy if the cameras were never used and we deterred assaults from happening.

– Alan Gallagher, NEAS Head of Risk
Body Cams Credit: ITV News

The cameras can only be set to record if an incident occurs, but the sophisticated technology means the audio and visual footage is encrypted and cannot be tampered with ahead of any resulting prosecution or trial.

Nationally there have been more than 350 prosecutions brought for attacks on ambulance staff over the last year. The scale of the problem is believed to be much greater.