Violent Attacks on Ambulance Workers Soar Across UK

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The number of violent attacks on ambulance staff in Britain has soared by over a third (34 per cent) in the last five years, while sexual assaults have doubled.

A major investigation by GMB, the union for ambulance workers, revealed that 14,441 physical assaults were recorded between 2012/13 and January this year, with staff stabbed, bitten, and having had blood spat at them by intravenous drug users.

Entitled “In harm’s way: confronting violence against NHS ambulance staff”, the report uncovered the impact violence against emergency workers has on their physical and mental health, reporting how people had been kicked, punched, slapped, stabbed, spat on, and held at knifepoint.

Testimony from the survey of more than 500 ambulance staff included one worker claiming to have been “attacked with a samurai sword repeatedly”, while another recalled “leg and emotional injuries sustained” from an incident in which a mental health patient “attempted to pull [them] over a bridge”.

The vast majority (94 per cent) of staff surveyed had witnessed the assault of a colleague or were aware of such attacks taking place, and almost three quarters (72 per cent) reported being attacked during their time in the job.

According to the report, more than one in five (21 per cent) ambulance workers have had to take sick leave due to attacks, while 37 per cent have considered leaving their job due to the threat of violence they faced.

One worker said: “I have had to have a hysterectomy because of injuries sustained … I have now returned to work but the impact on my life has been immense. I now cannot have children and will have ongoing problems for the rest of my life.”

The scale of abuse that ambulance workers face was revealed as MPs on Friday are set to vote on whether courts should be required to hand out tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which would see violence against ambulance staff treated as an aggravating factor, is seen by campaigners as a welcome step, but the GMB calls for its scope to be widened to include sexual assaults.

Figures disclosed by ambulance trusts under a Freedom of Information request found that sex attacks on staff have rocketed 211 per cent over five years, rising from 53 recorded incidents in 2012/13 to 165 in 2016/17.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB NHS national officer, said: “No one should be told that facing violence is just ‘part of the job’. The number of attacks faced by ambulance workers as they try to save lives is beyond unacceptable.

“Changing the law will be an important first step as current sentences aren’t providing an adequate deterrent,” he said.

Last year, a union leader representing ambulance drivers in Sweden called for crews to be equipped with military-style defensive equipment, reporting that emergency workers have been forced to retreat from migrant-dominated no-go zones in the Scandinavian nation after coming under attack from “large groups of violent people”.

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