England’s top nurse has blasted at attackers of NHS staff as “idiots” who are “putting lives at risk” following a spate of assaults on emergency workers.
Ruth May said they were being spat at or attacked for their ID badges, which provide benefits from companies looking to support medics during the coronavirus outbreak.
Her criticism comes after a hospital worker suffered a fractured cheekbone after being punched in the face in Salford on Sunday.
A 27-year-old man has been charged with assault in connection with the alleged attack on the 50-year-old staff member, who needed treatment but has been discharged.
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May said: “Our NHS and social care staff are pulling out all the stops in the face of an unprecedented global health threat, so I am shocked at some of the stories I am hearing of NHS staff being assaulted, spat at or attacked for their ID badges.
“I was deeply moved by the country coming together to clap our carers last week and the many stories of generosity from businesses and members of the public, but these inspiring displays of gratitude are at risk of being overshadowed by the stupid behaviour of an idiotic few who are putting lives at risk.
“So I am calling on the public to respect and listen to NHS staff, because you may be needing them very soon – please stay at home, wash your hands and save lives.”
The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and University College Hospital in London have emailed staff to warn them not to wear their IDs after some were mugged for their badges.
The Royal College of Nursing has also warned its members not to travel in their uniforms to avoid being attacked.
The Crown Prosecution Service said an assault on an emergency worker is punishable by up to 12 months behind bars.
A 24-year-old man was Tasered on Saturday in Haringey, north London, after police said he was deliberately “coughing saliva” at officers.
They were driving when the man started shouting and “making rude gestures towards them”, police said.
When the firearms officers stopped to speak, they said he “shouted that he had coronavirus before deliberately coughing saliva all over them”.
Police say he then attacked the officers before they Tasered and arrested him on suspicion of public order offences and assault on an emergency worker. He was bailed until April.
Officers in Brighton were also allegedly spat at on Saturday when they arrested a man following a report of criminal damage at a block of flats.
They arrested Peter Davy, 65, who police say spat at them. Davy, of Albion Street, was set to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Monday accused of three counts of assaulting an emergency worker.
He is also charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of violence and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Daniel Shevlin, 27, was charged with assault and an offence under the Public Order Act following the alleged incident at Salford Royal Infirmary on Sunday.
Shevlin, of no fixed address, was due to appear at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on Monday.