Ambulance staff experiencing ‘horrific’ abuse and attacks, NHS warns

Assaults against female ambulance staff have risen by 48 per cent in the last five years (Getty Images)
Assaults against female ambulance staff have risen by 48 per cent in the last five years (Getty Images)

Ambulance staff are experiencing “horrific” abuse from the public as attacks on workers increased by 23 per cent in the wake of the pandemic.

Assaults against female ambulance staff have risen by 48 per cent in the last five years, according to a new report from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

In response to rising attacks, the NHS has launched a #workwithoutfear campaign to prevent abuse of ambulance staff. Last year there were 11,749 attacks against ambulance staff, equating to 32 workers being abused or attacked every day.

AACE said incidents included kicking, slapping, headbutting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving knives and weapons.

The organisation, which represents all ambulance trusts in the UK, said attacks were often related to alcohol, people experiencing a mental health crisis and some were motivated by sexual and racial discrimination.

The AACE report reveals two-thirds of offenders who assault staff are male while the biggest increase in attacks over the last five years has been on staff aged 21 to 34.

Last year a man was jailed for nine years after stabbing two paramedics working for the West Midlands Ambulance Service, Deena Evans and Michael Hipgrave.

“Following my own horrific experiences, I am supporting this campaign to try and prevent my colleagues having to go through what Michael and I have endured,” Ms Evans said.

“Being attacked so violently by someone I was trying to help completely changed me as a person and I became introverted and scared of going out. But that fear went away as soon as he was sentenced to nine years in prison.”

Daren Mochrie, chair of AACE and chief executive of North West Ambulance Service said ambulance staff “face the possibility of violence, assault and aggression” on every shift.

“When they occur, these attacks have a significant and lasting impact on the team member, affecting every aspect of their life.

“The Assaults on Emergency Workers Offences Act 2018 legislation is in place, but we must now see the judiciary consistently using that to issue the most appropriate sentences to those found guilty of committing these appalling crimes.”

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive for the NHS said: “We should all have the right to work without fear of violence and threats, so I am pleased to support this important campaign as part of our wider NHS violence prevention and reduction work to protect staff wherever they work.”

Jayne Hidderley, chair of the anti-bullying task group for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the attacks are “deeply saddening”. “Paramedics and ambulance staff face daily abuse ranging from verbal abuse to attacks with weapons. All abuse is extremely harmful, it is unacceptable, and no abuse will be tolerated,” she said.