Can Body Cameras Reduce Violence and Aggression in the Care Industry?

A staggering 71% of care home workers have faced violence and aggression in their workplace, with the most common type of abuse being verbal. In the UK alone, police recorded 1200 assaults between residents living at care homes between 2014 and 2016.

Able Training Support (ABS) found that Kicking, hair pulling, biting, swearing, hitting and spitting are not uncommon occurrences in care homes, with care workers often at the receiving end.

According to ABS as many as 71 per cent of care workers claim to have faced both verbal and physical aggression in their jobs. They said that the anger, confusion and fear that people with dementia experience can sometimes result in aggressive and violent behaviour, which puts care workers at risk.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, believes the industry needs to find ways to deal with rising aggression towards staff: “As we see more people with different types of dementias and exhibiting more challenging behaviours, we have to have a system that’s ready to respond to that.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which monitors and regulates care homes in England, said that the responsibility lies not only with the industry as a whole, but specifically with the provider to create a safe environment for staff and residents. A statement from the CQC said “People living in care homes should feel safe and be protected from harm – and it is the responsibility of those who are in charge of running these services to ensure this happens.”

Care homes are not alone in facing a growing number of attacks and violence. The NHS is experiencing a similar epidemic of aggression. The NHSBA Physical Assaults on Staff Report revealed that since 2010 there has been a 24% increase in the number of incidents against staff.

The most recent NHS Staff survey showed that more than 15% of NHS employees have experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months – the highest figure for 5 years.

As a result, The NHS Violence Reduction Strategy was launched in October last year, demonstrating that the challenges are being taken seriously, and steps are being introduced to better protect nursing staff whilst also improving quality of care.

The Strategy includes £2m dedicated to programmes around reducing violence, bullying and harassment against NHS staff. With this backing, Trusts around the country are looking to introduce specialist body cameras as a tool to address the rising challenges.

Body cameras have already proven themselves to be an effective deterrent of aggression and false complaints within policing, with every police force in the UK now routinely utilising the technology. But it’s not just police who could benefit from them being used.

The NHS have demonstrated that it is feasible to roll out the technology in an inpatient, care focused setting. In a published study, body cameras were shown to reduce the level of violent incidents and instances of use of emergency restraint at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT).

Compared to the same period the previous year the need for emergency restraints (where there was a high or immediate risk of harm) went down from 41 incidents to 18. There were also no complaints regarding restraints during the study period compared to two, in the same period a year earlier.

These results are particularly interesting as the Violence Reduction Strategy includes a strong emphasis on a “No Force First” approach, aimed at finding alternatives to physical restraints as a means of supporting people who become distressed.

During the study at Berrywood Hospital, 12 cameras were worn by 60 staff from the Prevention and Management of Violence and Aggression team and nurses on five psychiatric inpatient wards over a period of 3 months.

Soon after the study, the Trust won the HSJ Patient Safety Award for Best Product/Innovation for Patient Safety specifically for their use of body cameras on wards. This was followed closely by being named Trust of the Year, with judges noting the innovation helping to combat violence and aggression.

Andres Patino, assistant director of adult mental health services (south) at NHFT, explained that informing a patient they were behaving unsafely and that a recording was about to start was often enough to change behaviour positively. “As soon as that button is pressed what you then see is a de-escalation.” He said.

The cameras used in the study featured a unique front facing screen that let patients see that they were being recorded. Studies show that when people know they are being recorded it can help calm them down and avoid confl¬ict, and that’s just what the cameras achieved. The screen made it crystal clear what was going on whilst being open and honest about what was being recording.

Beyond keeping staff physically safe, Lindsay Bennett, NHFT’s prevention and management of violence and aggression manager has also spoken about the benefits of learning from footage captured on the body cameras.

She 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.”

“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.”