Should frontline NHS staff wear body cameras?

Ipswich nurse Sarah Seeley. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Ipswich nurse Sarah Seeley. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Andy Abbott

An Ipswich nurse is leading a debate over whether NHS staff should wear body cameras to protect them from abuse.

Sarah Seeley, chairwoman of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Suffolk branch, will raise the issue at the union’s annual congress starting this Saturday in Belfast.

RCN says assaults on emergency workers have increased in recent years, with staff being strangled, stabbed, head-butted, spat at, and having their eyes gouged.

Body cameras are now common within police forces, but the union says there have so far been few trials over their use in health settings.

Ms Seeley said cameras could act as a deterrent from abusing staff, or be used as evidence if an attack did take place.

She added. “It would have to be used at the right place, at the right time.

“So we could be talking about frontline staff who may be dealing with aggressive or unfriendly patients and visitors in settings such as A&E or emergency assessment units.”

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The debate will discuss the pros and cons of their use in the NHS.

Teresa Budrey, RCN eastern regional director, added: “Attacks on nursing staff, and others working in health services, are totally unacceptable and more must be done to tackle the problem.

“Nurses and healthcare assistants caring for patients and working hard to keep services afloat should not be subject to violence and abuse.”

Last year, Suffolk Constabulary introduced body cameras for all frontline officers.

Mark Emsden, branch board secretary from the Suffolk Police Federation, said feedback so far had been wholly positive.

While it is too early to tell if the move has reduced attacks on officers, Mr Emsden said: “It forces people to behave more appropriately when they know they are being filmed.”

He said footage had enabled complaints against officers to be resolved more quickly as evidence could be easily obtained.

Sarah Gorton, head of health at UNISON, said body cameras were not “magic wands” against abuse.

“More prosecutions by employers can help send out a strong signal that no level of abuse towards NHS staff is ever acceptable,” she added.

“The government can assist too by giving the NHS the money it needs to employ more staff, making attacks less likely.

“There are many situations where the use of cameras would be wholly inappropriate, and NHS trusts working with unions to prevent incidents from happening in the first place are always going to be better than having the means to film them.”

A bill is currently passing through parliament seeking tougher punishments for people who attack emergency staff in the line of their duties.

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