Protecting those who are protecting you – new safety measures for ambulance crews
London Ambulance Service (LAS) has invested over £3million to fit its ambulances with an upgraded and comprehensive crew safety system to deter violence and aggression against staff and volunteers, and to help secure a conviction in court should an assault occur.
Panic buttons linked to a recording device, new monitors that help staff and volunteers to see the outside of their vehicle and electronic tracking to help police arrive even faster when assaults are taking place are now installed in 510 ambulances and in 55 fast response cars.
Sadly, assaults on our teams in recent years remain unacceptably high. In the first six months of this year alone – from January till June – our staff and volunteers reported 262 physical assaults which included kicking, punching, spitting, biting or with a weapon. There were also reports of 429 non-physical assaults such as verbal abuse, threats of violence or anti-social behaviour.
Chief Paramedic Dr John Martin said: “Our ambulance crews and call handlers are dedicated to saving lives and helping Londoners in their time of need. They should never have to experience violence or aggression from people, but sadly – due to the behaviours of a small minority of patients and members of the public – it does happen.
“These new measures will help keep our teams safer and reinforce to the public that abuse will not be tolerated.
“We have heard the personal stories about the devastating impact that verbal or physical abuse can have. I’m determined that when it happens, we take the toughest possible action against those responsible.”
As part of the upgrade, newly installed monitors inside the ambulance provide the crew with a live view of the external cameras, so they can see what is happening around the vehicle.
This can be useful in cases where colleagues have to take refuge inside the ambulance if they are under threat. Monitors will keep recording even when the engine is switched off, which means better protection for our crews when they arrive at a scene.
During an incident when the panic button is pushed, sound will be recorded as well as the video. The footage is stored securely in case it is needed for a prosecution.
Ambulances continue to benefit from their in-built tracking system that allows our control rooms to accurately track their precise location if crews need help from the police.
As well as the new crew safety systems, body-worn cameras have recently been rolled out to crews across the capital and two violence reduction officers have been recruited to support staff and volunteers and work with police to increase prosecutions.
In recent years LAS has worked to encourage staff and volunteers to report all incidents of abuse and violence rather than accept it as ‘part of the job’. This year ambulance services around the country launched a ‘Work Without Fear’ campaign to promote a no-violence culture and help create a safer work environment for front-line staff and volunteers.