London Ambulance Service (LAS) crews have begun wearing body-worn cameras in an attempt to protect them from violent assaults and threats.
The LAS announced that the new kit is being rolled out as part of a trial from 22 February, starting in areas where LAS staff and volunteers are considered to be most at risk, based on previous incidents.
In the first phase of the trial, crews from four ambulance stations: two in north London and two in south London, will be wearing the cameras.
Medics can press a button to start recording if patients or members of the public become aggressive or abusive towards them.
Emergency Ambulance Crew Gary Watson, based at Croydon Ambulance Station, will be among the first people to wear one.
He was violently assaulted by a drunk patient three years ago.
Gary said: “We need these cameras. 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.”
Gary, 33, 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 and a fourth badly shaken during the attack.
Despite being found guilty of the sickening assaults on the life-savers, the male responsible for the offences got off with a suspended sentence.
The latest figures from the LAS show there have been 529 violent incidents between April 2020 and January this year.
Those attacks include kicking, punching, head-butting, biting and spitting, and there have also been 31 assaults with weapons.
Meanwhile, during the same period, there have been 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, the LAS recruited two violence reduction officers and launched their #NotPartoftheJob campaign as part of ongoing work to protect LAS staff and volunteers.
This financial year, 27 people have been successfully prosecuted for attacks on ambulance staff – 18 of those were jailed.
Louise Murray, a violence reduction officer for the LAS, said:
“We are working closely with the police to help support staff and volunteers when they have been assaulted or abused.
“Any video footage recorded on our cameras can be used as evidence and in turn we hope it will help to secure more prosecutions.”
Recent legislation means anyone found guilty of attacking emergency services staff and volunteers can be jailed for 12 months; those convicted of more severe cases of assault can face up to two years in prison.
London Ambulance Service chief executive Garrett Emmerson said:
“Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened at work – particularly our crews and call handlers who continue to make huge sacrifices to care for patients and have never worked harder.
“Looking after our people, keeping them safe and supporting their wellbeing is our top priority.
“It is shameful that our staff and volunteers can be abused while caring for others and we will always push for the prosecution of anyone who attacks them.”
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