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Body cameras to be worn by Oxford University Hospital staff as abuse increases

Verbal aggression and physical violence has increased by 125% in the past year.

Oxford University Hospitals has launched a campaign to remind people that there's no excuse for abusive behaviour towards NHS staff. 

In November 2020, there were 80 reported incidents around violence and aggression.  In November 2021, this had more than doubled to 180.

A three-month trial of body cameras for medical staff in the Emergency Department at the John Radcliffe Hospital will start today. 

The cameras are smaller than a smartphone and are worn to help deter hospital visitors from being aggressive - creating a safer environment for everyone.

In addition to hopefully preventing this type of behaviour, the cameras will also help to identify and prosecute any offenders.

Frontline staff on shift, who have been provided with training, will wear the camera on their uniform in clear view. The camera will only be switched on when an individual is being violent or abusive, and only after they've been told that they're about to be recorded.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at OUH, said: "We fully understand the anxieties, stress, and worry caused by the ongoing pandemic, and appreciate the toll this has taken on all of us.

"This is especially true of staff working in our hospitals.  My request of you is to treat our staff with respect - they are working incredibly hard in challenging circumstances to keep you, your family members, and their colleagues safe after an extremely difficult two years.

"Everyone should be entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe and free from aggression or abuse. The majority of people treated by our staff are grateful for the care they receive, and we're grateful to them for continuing to give staff the respect and kindness they deserve.

"However, we have seen an increase in aggression and abuse towards our health and care staff in a range of settings. This is completely unacceptable, and the campaign message is very clear that it will not be tolerated under any circumstances. 

"Abuse takes many forms - it doesn't have to be physical violence.  Verbal abuse and aggression can be just as damaging, and can take a huge toll on someone's wellbeing - in time, this wears people down and can potentially lead to increased sickness and absence.

"We do know that COVID-related precautions mean that waits for appointments and treatments may take longer, but please remember that social distancing, mask wearing, and visiting restrictions are in place to keep patients and staff safe, which is important as ever given the rise of the Omicron variant."

Terry Roberts, Chief People Officer at OUH, said: "Our staff have been absolutely incredible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; consistently putting the needs of our patients before their own; and every member of our dedicated and hardworking staff has the fundamental right to be safe at work and it is our priority to eliminate violence and abuse.

"Violent and aggressive behaviour, be that against our staff or other patients or visitors, has absolutely no place in our hospitals and will not be tolerated."

"As well as reducing the number of incidents towards our staff, these cameras are a vital step in ensuring patients feel safe too."

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