London ambulance crews have started wearing body cameras to protect them from violent assaults and threats, and the new initiative is being rolled out as part of a trial, starting in areas where London Ambulance Service staff and volunteers are considered to be most at risk, based on previous incidents.
Medics can press a button to start recording if patients or members of the public become aggressive or abusive.
Emergency ambulance crew member Gary Watson, based at Croydon Ambulance Station, will be among the first people to wear one.
Watson, who was violently assaulted by a drunk patient three years ago, said: “We get up every day to help people, not to be severely beaten.Wearing these cameras should act as a deterrent and if it doesn’t then at least there will be evidence which will hopefully mean tougher sentences for criminals.”
He suffered a torn ligament and serious injuries to his face, throat and neck in the attack in January 2018. Two other medics were also injured while a fourth medic was badly shaken. A man was found guilty but only given a suspended sentence.
Latest figures from London Ambulance Service revealed that there were 529 violent incidents between April 2020 and January 2021.Those attacks included kicking, punching, head-butting, biting and spitting and there were also 31 assaults with weapons.
Meanwhile, during the same period, there were 834 incidents of verbal abuse and threats. There are concerns that many more incidents go unreported, despite a campaign to encourage staff and volunteers to report all abuse.
As well as the cameras, London Ambulance Service has recruited two violence reduction officers and launched the #NotPartoftheJob campaign, as part of its ongoing work to protect staff and volunteers.So far this year, 27 people have been successfully prosecuted for attacks on ambulance staff – 18 of those were jailed.