Evaluating body worn cameras in the ambulance service

Two emergency medical staff moving a person on a stretcher into an ambulance, photo by sturti/Getty Images

Photo by sturti/Getty Images


In the year leading up to June 2021, 3,569 ambulance staff were subject to physical assault by members of the public. This is approximately a one third increase compared to the same period five years prior to this and represents a growing trend in physical and verbal abuse suffered by frontline ambulance staff. Further, just a fraction of these assaults result in prosecutions, meaning many assailants go unpunished after abusing ambulance staff.

One measure to address this growing trend is to pilot body worn cameras (BWCs) across ambulance trusts in England. BWCs are wearable recording devices that are able to collect audio and video data and are intended to make staff feel safer, invoke greater confidence when in challenging situations, help de-escalate potentially abusive situations and record evidence to assist the police with prosecutions in the event this is necessary.

How are we helping?

RAND Europe has been commissioned by NHS England and the London Ambulance Service (LAS) to evaluate the BWC project, over a three-year period from Summer 2021 until Summer 2024.

The aims of the evaluation are to understand:

  1. How and to what extent does the adoption of BWCs by the ambulance trusts affect outcomes of interest, primarily a reduction in violence against ambulance staff?
  2. How is the project implemented in practice?
  3. What are the factors that influence the implementation and outcomes of the project, and how?
  4. The costs and value of investing in BWCs.

A range of different methods have been used so far in the evaluation, including a survey, focus groups and interviews with frontline ambulance staff, support staff, trade union representatives and members of the public. Throughout the remainder of the evaluation, we will repeat some of these methods, as well as conduct analysis of trust-level administrative data, work with trusts to harmonise data collection approaches, produce a cost-consequence analysis and do some ‘deep dives’ into trusts where BWC implementation is perceived to be going particularly well.

Interim findings are being shared with LAS and NHS England as the evaluation progresses. We will publish a final report detailing the full findings of the three-year evaluation, expected to be in the Summer of 2024.