To say that body worn camera equipment has become a controversial topic over the last few years is, at this point, probably a little bit of an understatement. Things started a few years ago when body cameras began to roll out in law enforcement agencies across the country. They were designed to increase visibility and add accountability into the already fragile relationships between police officers and the communities they’ve dedicated themselves to serving, but in many ways, they seem to have only made that relationship worse.Body Worn Camera

However, one cannot argue that body cameras do have value in a number of situations, and as it turns out, using them in mental health wards is one of them. The Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, for example, has been conducting a trial that involves giving body cameras to nurses at various hospitals throughout the area. The results are fascinating.

Body Cameras and Mental Health Wards: What You Need to Know

Trials first began in 2014, when two nurses in mental health wards at Broadmoor ‒ a high-security psychiatric hospital ‒ were given body-worn cameras to help record violent incidents. Even in a short period of time, the footage proved to be invaluable. Not only did it provide the evidence that police needed to support prosecutions for violent offenders, but they actually did prove responsible for a small reduction in incidents featuring assaults on staff members.

It isn’t only hospital staff who are getting in on the body-worn camera movement, either. In January of 2019, the local government said that it would provide $8 million by as soon as 2023 or 2024 to begin a similar trial on body cameras for paramedics. All of this is once again in service of not only reducing the number of assault incidents that NHS staff members have to deal with but one that will hopefully speed up prosecutions too.

However, the origins of the program were a bit more straightforward than that. NHS’s prevention and management of violence and aggression manager, Lindsay Bennett, said that she was initially in support of the cameras as more of a fact-finding enterprise. “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 said. She went on to say that if they can watch an incident, they can normally learn as much about it as possible. This, in turn, gives everyone the complete, actionable information they need to make better decisions in the future.

None of this is to say that all of the trials have been a resounding success, however. In 2016, NHS conducted a 12-week feasibility study across five mental health wards with body-worn cameras. Twelve cameras in total were distributed to staff members. While violence was noticeably reduced in three of the wards, it actually increased in two. Likewise, there was a slight overall rise in the level of violence compared to just one year prior.

Verbal abuse also increased across the board. The use of emergency restraints, however, which are supposed to be used only in situations where there is a very high or immediate risk of harm, decreased by half. Even a survey conducted on both staff and patients said that people overwhelmingly felt that the body-worn camera equipment made them safer. After this, it was determined that the cameras were “acceptable to use for both patients and staff.”

Again, NHS absolutely has a violence problem that will need to be addressed at all costs. NHS staff is currently trying to determine whether body-worn cameras are how to best do it. Regardless of what ends up happening, one thing is for sure ‒ this is something that many similar organizations around the world will be watching very, very closely.