'Sad state of affairs' as ambulance staff suffer 118 assaults in Hartlepool

Body cameras are helping reduce the number of assaults on paramedics after more than 1,400 incidents over the past two years in the North East.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 12:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 12th January 2020, 2:02 pm
The North East Ambulance Service has been issuing staff with body-worn cameras to help combat the number of assaults on staff
The North East Ambulance Service has been issuing staff with body-worn cameras to help combat the number of assaults on staff

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said they had 1,413 reports of assaults on staff over the past two financial years, which includes verbal and physical offences.

In total 118 of these issues were reported in Hartlepool which equates to around 9% of the total issues, which they said was proportionate to the area which they cover.

Ambulance chiefs said they encourage staff to report everything which could be classed as abuse or assault, and while verbal abuse is the most common complaint, 10% of reported incidents did result in an injury.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Alan Gallagher, head of risk and regulatory services at NEAS, said staff have praised the use of body worn cameras in helping to tackle issues after they were brought in on a pilot in October 2018.

Speaking at Hartlepool Borough Council Audit and Governance Committee, he said just the appearance of the cameras is acting as a deterrent.

He said: “It is an increasing problem for not only the ambulance service but the health sector in general, violence and aggression and violent crime.

“It’s not the night time economy and the high streets where these assaults are happening, it’s actually happening in people’s homes.

“In years gone by staff have said ‘it’s just part of the job, nothing is going to change and I don’t really mind’ but we cannot accept that and we should not accept that for our staff.

“What we find is the sheer presence of body worn video is deterring and that’s the primary aim for us to prevent assaults against staff.

“If we look after our staff, we in turn have staff at work who are fit, well, motivated, which helps our performance. If we get all that right, it improves our patient care.

“Overarching feedback from our staff is it’s stopping assaults happening, which is great.”

He added Friday nights are the most common time for incidents to occur, with July and August the most common months.

The most common reasons for assault were alcohol, drugs and mental health issues, and the majority of perpetrators were men in their 30s and 40s in domestic dwellings.

Staff wearing the body cameras are responsible for when they activate the technology to record.

At the end of their shift staff return the cameras to a dock which would download any footage captured, which is kept for 31 days and is only ever accessed if there is a reported incident.

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) was the first in the country to trial the cameras in a scheme launched in October 2018.

It has been piloted in three areas Hartlepool, Newcastle city centre and Sunderland, around the Pallion area.

Councillors supported the use of the cameras and said it was a ‘sad state of affairs’ paramedics and emergency service staff face assaults.