Calls for cameras on ambulance staff to deter attacks
Ambulance crews should carry cameras to help prevent thousands of assaults on front-line staff in London each year, according to a report.
The Freedom of Information Act figures revealed up to four ambulance workers are attacked each day in the capital.
Report author Roger Evans said body-worn CCTV cameras would act as visible deterrents.
London Ambulance Service (LAS) welcomed the report but said cameras on crews or ambulances would undermine trust.
End Quote Roger Evans London Assembly
It is a disgrace to hear of cases where front-line staff are having their fingers savagely bitten by drunks and attacked with fence posts”
Director of Operations for LAS, Jason Killens, said they had considered cameras but concluded that the "relationship between our clinicians and their patients is based on trust and a strong respect for patient confidentiality".
He added: "For us as an ambulance service in London and the particular challenges that brings, we believed that cameras on our crews or ambulances would undermine that trust.
"However, we will continue to review how we protect our staff going forward."
He said there were 582 reported assaults and 749 cases of abuse in 2013.
"There can never be any excuse to attack or abuse our staff, whose only role in responding to emergency calls is to help people," added Mr Killens.
"The vast majority of patients are very appreciative of our work, but sadly some do resort to threats and violence."
Conservative London Assembly member Mr Evans is calling for 100 trial cameras to be worn by LAS crews plus 100 on-vehicle devices at an estimated cost of £106,000, which campaigners argue is less than the annual £125,700 sick bill caused by injury.
Mr Evans said: "It is a disgrace to hear of cases where front-line staff are having their fingers savagely bitten by drunks and attacked with fence posts.
"Video evidence would make it easier to report crimes, avoid disputes and shorten trials."
Body cameras are currently being trialled by police forces across the UK, with Staffordshire Police issuing 550 of the devices to all operational officers, including armed response teams, as part of a programme to boost transparent policing.