Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Ambulance service to extend use of body worn cameras to deter violence against staff

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) announced they will be extending the availability of body worn cameras for its frontline crews to more sites across its region.

The aim is to reduce violence and aggression towards ambulance crew as well as to capture evidence to hold individuals responsible for their actions.

Last year, from April 2022 to March 2023, SECAmb staff reported 1,315 incidents of violence and aggression from members of the public. These included verbal abuse and threats either over the phone to Emergency Operations Centre staff or at the scene of an incident.

The reported incidents also included 225 actual physical assaults.

The extension of the use of body worn cameras is just another way amongst the efforts to reduce and prevent violence against ambulance staff as the rise in violent incidents is at worrying levels.

SECAmb Security Manager Dave Monk said: “My colleagues, both in our control rooms and out on the road, work tirelessly every day to provide compassionate care to our patients.

“We know that the huge majority of people would find the behaviour of people who abuse or who are violent towards our staff, abhorrent.

“However, there remains a small minority of people who continue to act in this way.

“Our staff deserve to carry out their roles without the fear of facing abuse or violence.

“I am pleased that we have been able to extend the use of body worn cameras so that more staff have the choice to use them while on shift.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support all our staff and ensure that any individual who chooses to act in a violent or aggressive manner is held responsible for their actions.”

Staggering degree of violence: “Patient keeps axe under pillow”

The Times reported paramedics are being told to take police escort to more than 1,200 addresses for fear of attack.

According to the report, ambulance services have flagged hundreds of addresses after violence toward crew and the notes on flagged addresses include remarks such as “patient keeps axe under pillow — serrated knife hidden round the house and is known to be a risk”, “shoots/throws acid”, and “patient is anti-ambulance”.

Since 2018 common assault or battery of an on-duty emergency worker — including police, firefighters and paramedics — has been a specific crime punishable by up to a year in prison, with the changes made to the Assaults Against Emergency Workers (Offences) Act.

Since the offence was introduced about 130,000 assaults on emergency workers have been recorded, mostly to police.

And although the maximum jail time was doubled in 2020, research by the charity Transform Justice showed that the number of assaults on emergency workers had increased and that the reoffending rate had not moved.

Two thirds of those imprisoned commit another crime after release.

Paramedics started to wear cameras after assaults against them rose by a third in 2021.

That year, a total of 11,749 staff were abused, attacked or physically assaulted, according to a separate report from Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), which corresponded to a staggering 32 ambulance staff being assaulted every day – more than one attack during every hour of every day throughout the whole year.

“The most significant rise covered the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when assaults jumped up by 23% compared with the year before,” AACE said.

“They included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving knives and weapons.”

“Harshest penalties should be imposed”

Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics, said longer maximum sentences were necessary but not properly enforced.

“We have long been aware of the physical and verbal abuse that paramedics suffer and the toll it takes on their health and wellbeing,” she said.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that paramedics are being abused whilst carrying out their duties, going above and beyond to help people when they are at their most vulnerable, and often in the most challenging of circumstances.”

She added: “The problem is that the law is not being used to its full effect and sentences are still far too lenient. We are calling on the courts to step up and impose the harshest penalties available to them.”

Em Wilkinson-Brice, director for people at NHS England, said: “The health service must be a safe space for our people and we will always look to support staff to reduce the risk of danger.

“The statistics quoted here are evidence of our ongoing work, with police and other partner agencies, to identify risks and provide information to our staff so that they can work without fear.

“Our staff work hard to provide excellent care for patients and are dedicated to saving lives every day, and we will support them in taking positive action where appropriate against those that are abusive towards them.”

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