EMAS paramedics verbally abused, bitten and punched in the face

A new report shows ambulance staff are being verbally abused, bitten and punched in the faceA new report shows ambulance staff are being verbally abused, bitten and punched in the face
A new report shows ambulance staff are being verbally abused, bitten and punched in the face
Ambulance staff across the region have been subjected to a rising number of violent attacks, an investigation has revealed.

Research from the trade union GMB found staff from the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) were violently attacked 1,641 times over the last five years.

A similar picture is painted across the West Midlands with more than 2,677 attacks on staff during the same period. Almost 300 of the attacks across the Midlands were recorded as sexual assaults.

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Ian Burton, an EMAS paramedic who works in and around Leicestershire, told LDRS in reaction to the news it was a frequent occurrence.

He said: “The most common thing we see is verbal assaults that then progress into actual physical ones and I have seen very recently two paramedics have been physically punched in the face by patients – the very people they are trying to help.

“The ambulance staff had to then deploy their restraint training and press emergency buttons to send alerts out to the police.

"We have CCTV in the back of the ambulance, but obviously not all our work takes place in the confines of our ambulances, so we see a lot of biting, spitting, punching and they are sadly far too common.”

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The data also reveals that the number of attacks on staff have increased every year since 2018.

When asked about the cause of this, Mr Burton said: “As things like the strain of the cost-of-living crises have increased, seeing more poverty across the area, people could be turning to drink and drugs more often, making people quite unpredictable.

"But also the climate of people having to wait longer for ambulances, because of the pressure the system is on, meaning people are sat waiting for them to come and become more frustrated as time goes on.”

He added: "We shouldn’t have to face this threat and we are not appropriately trained to deal with it in the same way the police force are. Ultimately we are there to help people, not to hinder, so it is very frustrating, it is on the rise and is becoming an issue.

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“There are staff that I know and I feel like there are many others who will leave and have because of these attacks.”

The law was changed in 2018 following campaigning by ambulance staff, which saw the Assaults Against Emergency Workers (Offences) Act passed, which made attacks on ambulance workers an aggravating factor for sentencing.

David Williams, Deputy Director of Operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service said: “Assaults on our staff are absolutely unacceptable and we take a zero-tolerance approach towards anyone who verbally, physically or sexually assaults them.

“Our frontline colleagues, the team in our 999 control room, and our volunteers work hard every day to deliver the best possible care to the public we serve.

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"They deserve to be treated with respect, and assaults make their job even harder.

"We are proactive in our approach to protect staff as much as possible including evidence-based training to support personal risk assessments, recording calls within our control room, providing body-worn cameras for our frontline staff, and having the ability to switch on CCTV on our ambulance vehicles.”