Ambulance crews in the region first to wear body cameras as protection
Ambulance workers in the North East are the first to trial a body camera to protect them from violence and aggression.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is the first ambulance service to trial the video cameras in a scheme that launches this week.
Around 40 of the trust’s frontline staff will be trying out the use of body cameras in a bid to offer them greater support against the rise of incidents of violence and aggression.
Alan Gallagher, Head of Risk, said: "The health, safety and welfare of our staff are of upmost importance. We want to take every precaution possible to ensure that our employees are safe whilst at work.
"Our staff are reporting more incidents of this nature and we are working closely with the police and other partners to respond to those perpetrators with warning letters and, where necessary, criminal action.
"From previous reports, we know that most of these circumstances happen away from CCTV covered areas so using body worn video cameras will mean that our staff can record evidence of abuse or assaults when they happen, such as when they are in a residential property attending to a patient.
"This move is designed to help us bring more prosecutions against people who put our staff at risk and reduce the assaults and abuse they are currently facing in the line of their work. There really is nothing more disheartening than being hurt by someone that you’ve gone to help, particularly when they already work in such challenging circumstances.
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"We will continue to work on measures to reduce assaults and liaise with police colleagues to ensure action is taken following any criminal acts against staff or the trust. We encourage all valuable NHS colleagues not to tolerate such behaviour.”
The number of reported physical assaults on NEAS staff has increased by 23% compared to last year. There were 350 prosecutions brought for attacks on ambulance staff over the last year nationally, but the scale of the problem is believed to be much greater.
A new law was recently introduced, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, in which individuals who assault or attack emergency workers will face longer jail terms if found guilty.
Mr Gallagher said: "We welcome anything that will help to deter people from abusing or assaulting our staff and we hope that by reporting incidents and providing credible evidence where we can, courts might be able to be much tougher when sentencing those found guilty of assaulting and threatening our staff, prosecuting those people to the full extent of the law."
Footage obtained in the event of an assault or abuse will be admissible as evidence in a court of law. It will only be used for the purposes of providing evidence to the police.
The tamper proof cameras, software and support for this three month trial have been provided free by Edesix.