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Using technology to reduce violent behaviour

Recent studies and research have found compelling evidence to suggest that issuing healthcare staff with body worn cameras reduces violent behaviour on mental health wards.


Former health and social care minister Stephen Hammond recently reported that there were more than 2,318 assaults against Suffolk NHS workers alone in 2018 – equating to over six assaults every day. 


The most recent NHS staff survey revealed that this is not an isolated trend, with more than 15% of all NHS employees having experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months – the highest figure for five years.*


The government responded by launching the NHS violence reduction strategy, announced last October, which includes £2m for programmes to reduce violence, bullying and harassment against NHS staff. Trusts around the country are introducing specialist body worn cameras (BWC) that can be worn by nursing staff as a tool to help achieve this, with resounding success.


Existing Research 

In 2017, under the aegis of its Innovation Research department and with support from Calla (the body camera supplier), researchers and clinicians from the Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) conducted a project to examine the feasibility of using body worn cameras in an inpatient mental health setting. 


12 cameras were trialled by 60 staff for three months across five wards and feedback was collected from staff and patients via focus groups and questionnaires, with overwhelmingly positive feedback. 83% of patients felt the cameras were of benefit, describing the main positives as things like safety for everyone, respect for staff and accurate recording. Staff feedback included: “I think it prevents a lot of aggression and puts patients’ minds at ease knowing there is a record of what happened.”


Dr. Alex O’Neill-Kerr - Clinical Medical Director, NHFT, concluded: “Improving patient and staff safety, coupled with improving the quality of care afforded are key priorities for us and we are always striving to find innovative ways to achieve those objectives. As this study has proven, body worn cameras could play an integral role in accomplishing those goals.” 


New study from West London Trust 

West London Trust (WLT) has furthered research by conducting its own study to look at some of the implications of the technology, which is available today via open access. 


Key findings: 

• BWC use was associated with a significant reduction in the seriousness of incidents on local services admissions wards

• There was a significant decline in the use of tranquilising injections during restraint incidents 

• BWCs were associated with a reduction in the overall seriousness of aggression and violence in reported incidents. 


The conclusion is therefore that their use is beneficial to patients, mental health staff and managers. Furthermore, staff surveys also revealed an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards the adoption of the cameras. 

• 80% thought that BWCs would have a positive impact 

• 86% thought that BWCs would help reassure both staff and patients 

• 100% of staff had encountered instances of verbal or physical aggression at least once a week 

• 87% spent a ‘considerable portion of their time dealing with aggressive behaviour’ 

• 80% said that dealing with aggressive behaviour ‘often gets in the way of doing the job they ought/want to be doing’ 

• 80% said that if BWCs could help reduce aggressive behaviour or the time spent dealing with it, ‘it would have a positive impact on their day-to-day job’ 

• 60% could recall a work incident ‘where they wished they’d had a body camera’.


Stephanie Bridger, Director of Nursing and Patient Experience at WLT, says: “The pilot provided us with really useful data which supported the use of body worn cameras on our inpatient wards. The data showed that the cameras helped reduce serious incidents and modified behaviour in a positive way, for both staff and patients. This has been a great innovation for us and we will be rolling this out across our Trust.” 


Lead author of this pilot study, Tom Ellis, from the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, concludes: “The changes after BWC introduction across all seven of the WLT MH wards in this pilot study are encouraging. The number of the most serious incidents, ie, those requiring constraint by use of tranquilising injections, was significantly reduced.” 


Click here to read the full paper.