Guardian reports body cameras for NHS staff are a “win-win”

Guardian reports body cameras for NHS staff are a “win-win”


This piece was originally published in the Guardian

The notion of mental health nurses switching on a body-worn camera to film violent incidents on wards may seem controversial, but for Jenny Allen, a service user from Northampton, it’s been a plus. Jenny explained “I think both staff and service users moderate their behaviour when the camera is switched on. It’s a win-win, really. It’s not punitive, it’s just to try to help de-escalate the situation.”

Calla cameras have been trialled in mental health at West London NHS trust, and Berrywood hospital, part of Northamptonshire healthcare NHS foundation trust (NHFT).

Lindsay Bennett, NHFT’s prevention and management of violence and aggression manager said “We wanted to learn from the camera footage and see if we could get better at helping people who are in crisis, because we need to get better – everybody needs to improve,” she says. “If we watch an incident, can we learn from that and make it safer for everybody? That’s been the thing all the way through for us. We want to keep everybody safe. Violence and restraint does happen in the NHS. We know there is an issue because the statistics show us. But we can get better at stopping it getting to a point where we have to restrain, by learning trigger signs.”

In 2016, NHFT conducted a 12‑week feasibility study across five mental health wards in Berrywood hospital in Northampton, using 12 Calla cameras. The data collected showed emergency restraints – used in situations where there is a high or immediate risk of harm – more than halved. A survey of staff and patients found that the cameras made people feel safer. Their use, the study concluded, “is acceptable to both patients and staff”. The costs, it added, could be offset by the reduction in complaints, incidents and restraints but further research is required to support this.

Andres Patino, assistant director of adult mental health services (south) at NHFT, says informing a patient they are behaving unsafely and a recording is about to start can often be enough. “As soon as that button is pressed what you then see is a de-escalation.” Cameras have a front-facing screen to show what is recorded. Nurses wear the camera throughout their shift but only switch it on when an incident occurs and they inform the patient they are doing so.

Jim Tighe, local security management specialist at West London NHS trust, says the Calla cameras have made staff feel more confident. “We’ve used the [footage] on a couple of occasions for serious incident reviews and it’s been really helpful to clearly see and hear what’s happened. It can help reduce the length of time an investigation takes, because you’ve got that independent witness,” he says.

Learn more about how Calla is making a difference in NHS Trusts

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