G4S Body Cameras
G4S Body Cameras

Barnsley hospital introduce body cameras to deter violence and aggression against staff

Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has received the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s third-party certification mark for their use of Reveal body-worn cameras and CCTV.

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What is your role in the trust?

I am head of what we call Business Security, which involves Security Management, Business Continuity and Emergency Response. I look after a team of 3 in-Trust security managers, and another 11 Security Staff who are contracted to G4S. Those are the guys who are equipped with body cameras, but we keep one in the office as we regularly also go out at busy periods.

During the day, we have a manager or supervisor and 3 officers on shift and at night we have 2 officers and a supervisor. We’ve got enough cameras so that everybody on a shift can wear one, which means they are always available to use.

3 or 4 times a year we hold a Security Awareness day on site. It’s normally 3 or so hours in the staff restaurant, and we put it on just so staff are aware what the security situation is on site and so they can be assured about what we do for them. The good thing about hosting it in the restaurant is that, because it’s also used by members of the public, we can reach out to patients and visitors too.

If we have any new initiatives we present them during these Security Awareness days. For example, when we launched the body cameras we had one of our security officers on the stand with a camera, literature and information.

We also make regular visits to patients on wards or visitors on site and ask them whether they feel safe in the hospital, and if there is anything we could do to improve. We generally get positive responses, or else it’s constructive comments.

The introduction of the cameras has been very positive, I don’t think we’ve received a single negative comment about them, or even comments about people being surprised to see we’re using them. You’d think we might have gotten some staff at least asking for the reason we are using cameras, but we haven’t even had that.

What problems were you facing that prompted you to get body cameras for your staff?

The main issue we had on site was antisocial behaviour and aggression towards staff, generally from disruptive patients. Dealing with those was the main driver for getting body cameras.

We divide aggression towards staff into 2 categories - Medical and Non-medical - and this is where the NHS is unique in dealing with violence. Sometimes it will be deliberate violence and aggression towards staff which is Non-medical, for example if a person is drunk or angry. We have also had small amounts of hate crime, which is also non-medical. But in Hospitals, we also face medical violence which stems from patients being unwell. The vast majority of assaults on staff are non-deliberate, or medical - a scratch, bite, or pulling the fingers back. We have been trained to deal with those, but if an unwell patient grabbed a scalpel or something it would be more serious.

We also wanted to be able to collect evidence if needed to share with the police. During the pilot phase, for example, one of our onsite shops was burgled and, because the security officer present had used the body camera to record the incident, we were able to share that video with the police.

As a direct result of wearing body cameras our officers will say that violence towards them has decreased dramatically.Mike Lees, Head of Business Security, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

How have cameras helped?

The body cameras really come into their own when our officers or nursing staff face threats, aggression, finger pointing and swearing face to face with no contact. The officers who are attending an incident approach with the front facing screens on and give a warning to the person that is committing violence that they will record if they need to. We’ve never had people playing up to the screen and we have found that as a deterrence measure they are excellent. As a direct result of wearing body cameras our officers will say that violence towards them has decreased dramatically.

Statistically, over the last few Christmas periods that we’ve gone back and had a look, I can say we have reduced violence and aggression issues towards staff by just over 80%. From 20th December 2016 to 2nd January 2017, which is historically a very busy period for us, we had 4 incidents down from 24 the year before.

And across the whole realm of violence and aggression, both medical and non-medical we have reduced aggressive incidents by 12% over the whole year, and body worn video will have been part of that.

How do you have DEMS set up? How does DEMS help?

We have DEMS installed on a standalone PC which is working fine for us. The PC is down in the security manager’s office because we have strict protocols regarding the handling and storage of data with vigorous procedures robust policies. The NHS has its own retention policies in respect to evidence and incidents and DEMS can handle those.

DEMS helps us by being able to keep data secure whilst keeping an audit trial for each file.

Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s third party certification scheme

This accreditation encompasses how we use body worn video and CCTV. It’s there to reassure our service users – contractors, visitors, staff and patients - that we use surveillance cameras alongside the Protection of Freedoms Act and Code of Practice with it’s 12 key guidelines.

Applying for the certification was challenging but very worthwhile. It allowed us to critically review the reasons for surveillance and scope these against our existing policies and procedures. And now, as part of our open and transparent approach to surveillance we publish monthly and annual reports as well as all our usage policies on the hospital website.

What are they key considerations for body worn video in a NHS setting?

The main consideration is maintaining the safety of our patients and staff whilst retaining the privacy and dignity of all stakeholders; including users of body worn video, staff, patients, visitors and contractors. It is important to make everybody aware that we are using all our surveillance assets in an open responsible and transparent manner, which the front facing screen on the body camera plays into; it’s open and honest and shows everybody what we’re capturing. Just like when you walk into a supermarket store and you see the TV screens displaying CCTV footage, it says to you “we have these facilities in place, we are being open about the fact we are looking at the people using our stores” and it provides assurance that we are protecting you.

What advice would you give other NHS security people?

I would say our experience has been extremely positive. But there is no short cut to getting a good program. It’s not inexpensive if you want to do it properly; you need to do training, create policies, choose high quality cameras and software. You can’t just stick a camera on somebody – you have to be acting and to be seen to be acting responsibly with people’s privacy. But, providing that the package is put together well, I would have no hesitation in recommending what we’ve done and the format of cameras that we use to anybody.