Camera trial to stem rising tide of hospital violence

AAP, 2 July 2024

Hospital security staff will trial body-worn cameras to try and combat a spike in assaults but a key union is calling for further powers for guards to stop on-site police being needed to stem the violence.

Security staff at nine NSW hospitals will trial body-worn devices to see if they can prompt people to calm down once they realise they are being recorded.

No start date has been set for the year-long trial and security and privacy policies will need to be established before it can proceed.

An evaluation will follow to ascertain if the cameras are effective.

Footage will only be recorded if security officers believe there is a risk of harm and the material could be used in prosecutions.

Health Minister Ryan Park says it's hoped the trial will strike a delicate balance by avoiding compromising the clinical setting or turning hospital security guards into police.

"We are not dealing with people who are well, often we're dealing with some of the sickest people within their respective communities, so we have to be really nuanced in what we do here," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Up to 300 cameras will be rolled out during the trial, with about $1 million allocated for the experiment.

It will test whether body-worn cameras can complement other security arrangements including patient-management plans, duress teams, alarms and lockdown protocols.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the cameras could de-escalate some aggressive behaviour, but substance abuse and mental health challenges driving some of that conduct made violence hard to combat.

"If you have got someone who is lucid enough ... to work out that they're being recorded, well, they'll make a better decision, but it won't be the placebo for everyone," he said.

"My biggest fear is ... there will be police in hospitals if we can't make hospitals a place that is safe and people understand how health security works."

The union wants more powers and protection for security staff, including training on restraint and move-on powers, as well as protective equipment.

Asked what security staff at hospitals could do that an average bystander could not, Mr Hayes replied: "Not a lot, seriously, and that's part of the problem."

Hospitals recorded 972 assaults on their premises in the year to March 2024 at a rate of more than 18 incidents a week, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The figure represents a jump of more than 25 per cent on the number of assaults recorded during the previous equivalent period.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman said paramedics, nurses and hospital staff needed to be kept safe.

"Violence in hospitals has been an issue ... when we were in government we introduced new offences for assaulting emergency services workers," he said.


* Wyong Hospital, Central Coast
* Westmead Hospital, western Sydney
* Royal North Shore Hospital, northern Sydney
* Nepean Hospital, western Sydney
* Liverpool Hospital, southwestern Sydney
* Wollongong Hospital, Illawarra region
* Shoalhaven Hospital, Illawarra region
* John Hunter Hospital, Hunter-New England region
* Tamworth Hospital, Hunter-New England region