Assaults on any of the emergency service workers are unacceptable. That is so obvious as to be trite, but for the avoidance of doubt, that is our starting point.
There has been over one thousand three hundred assaults on South East Coast Ambulance (SECamb) Paramedics in the last eight years. The number of assaults peaked in 2016/17 and dropped back by a small number over the last two years.
However, over the last 3 years assaults have averaged between four to five a week. This is a marked difference to the first three years of this decade when assaults averaged about 2 a week. So in eight years the numbers of assaults on SECamb Paramedics has doubled.
Of the 234 attacks in 2016/17, 189 were intentional and 45 were due to medical conditions.
The number of attacks in 2018/19 was 224, working out at an average of over four a week, which is wholly unacceptable.
We have over the last few weeks spoken to a number of SECamb paramedic staff who have told us:
“The attack on me has made me lose my confidence as a frontline Paramedic and has made me feel extremely vulnerable.”
“It honestly makes you start to think ‘is it worth it?’, consider leaving the job, family become stressed and concerned, heightens my levels of stress and anxiety whilst at work.
“Looking for a new job. My family are scared there may be a day I won’t come home after a shift.”
“I loathe being a Paramedic now. If I could find work elsewhere with similar pay I’d be on my way tomorrow.”
Alongside anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems associated with attacks, many of our paramedics have also suffered life changing physical injuries. One SECamb paramedic told us that they lost the ability to have children following injuries and treatment sustained after an attack.
“I had to have a hysterectomy because of injuries I sustained. … I’ve returned to work but the impact on my life has been considerable. I am now unable to have children and will have ongoing issues for the rest of my life.”
Is it any wonder then that Ambulance staff have one of the highest sickness absence rates of any staff group in the NHS.
But it doesn’t end there. SECamb Paramedic staff are not just assaulted. In the course of their duties they are confronted with Aggressive and Abusive behaviour as well.
As the chart shows the numbers of reported incidents of aggressive and abusive behaviour towards SECamb Paramedic staff is slowly declining, while the number of assaults over the last three years remains pretty constant.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill received Royal Assent and became law in Sept 2018. The Bill was meant to give added legal protection to police officers, medical staff, fire officers and prison officers. It doesn’t.
We have enormous sympathy for emergency workers, as one of the team is a front-line Paramedic. They know from practice the very real risks they take every day in service of those of us who cannot begin to imagine their working conditions. Our team member has been assaulted and felt deeply disappointed in what they perceived as an inadequate sentence for the violent offence committed against them.
The Bill introduced to protect them doesn’t do what it says on the tin. And yet everyday when we phone 999 for an ambulance, it arrives. None of the SECamb Paramedics who serve our region deserve to be assaulted, abused or treated aggressively. Let’s remember people they are there to save lives, not have their lives destroyed so much so they can’t have children.
All we wish to say to all SECamb Paramedics who attend and treat us at the scene and get us to hospital, is thank you, thank you for your care, for your professionalism and for being there.
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