Three ambulance crews 'attacked' in one night of 'appalling and despicable' violence

Two ambulance staff were taken to hospital after three alleged attacks in the North East at the weekend (NEAS)

Three ambulance crews were allegedly attacked in one night in what has been called “appalling and despicable” violence.

Two staff were left hospitalised and two vehicles were destroyed following the alleged attacks, the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said.

It said “drugs and alcohol appeared to be a significant factor” in all three incidents.

The alleged attacks across the North East region spanned seven hours between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

The first incident took place at an address in Blyth, Northumberland, just before 6pm on Saturday, when paramedics were called to treat a man who had taken a suspected drugs overdose.

Bricks were thrown into an ambulance in one of the alleged attacks (NEAS)

But when the crew arrived, another man in the house became aggressive and allegedly assaulted one of the staff.

All three crew locked themselves in the back of the ambulance with the patient, who still needed treatment.

Bricks were thrown at the side of the ambulance and a window was smashed, the NEAS said.

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A second ambulance was required and one of the ambulance crew was taken to hospital with facial injuries.

In the second incident, just after 7.30pm, an ambulance attended an unconscious patient on a pavement in South Shields, Tyne and Wear.

After regaining consciousness, the man was verbally aggressive and threatening to staff, the NEAS said.

He is accused of damaging medical equipment in the back of the ambulance while on the way to hospital. Ambulance staff were forced to pull into a local police station before continuing the journey to hospital.

The vehicle was damaged beyond use for the rest of the evening.

In the third incident, the NEAS said an advanced technician crew, employed by a private company working on its behalf, was called to a patient suffering the effects of alcohol in South Hetton, Durham, just after 1am on Sunday.

The patient allegedly kicked and punched the advanced technician, who was kept in hospital overnight to check for suspected internal injuries before he was discharged.

The NEAS said suspects in all three alleged attacks have been arrested by police forces in Northumbria and Durham.

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The two damaged vehicles will require thousands of pounds’ worth of repairs.

NEAS deputy chief executive Paul Liversidge said: “These were appalling and despicable attacks against our staff who had responded to 999 calls for help; in one case because a man was considered to have an immediate threat to his life and needed urgent medical care.

“In this case, the patient became threatening and violent towards our staff and they were only protected by the good fortune of passing by a police station, where they were able to stop and run in for help.”

He said: “We are seeing an increasing and very worrying trend of violence towards ambulance crews and other healthcare professionals.

“The NHS and NEAS has been under an enormous amount of pressure and strain dealing with coronavirus for the last four months. Our crews and staff are tired and I am concerned for the longer-term implications of this pandemic on their mental health.

“For our staff to have been put under such an enormous pressure on Saturday night because of an increase in drink and drug related calls has become a real concern.

One of the damaged windows of an ambulance in the North East following the alleged attacks (NEAS)

“The acts of a foolish minority have now spilled over to violence and these people need to be swiftly and appropriately dealt with so that they do not put any others of my staff in any danger.”

Under new laws introduced two years ago, anyone found guilty of assaulting an emergency worker can spend up to a year in prison, although the government is currently considering doubling the maximum sentence to two years.

Luke Gallagher, 28, from Blyth Street, Seaton Delaval, appeared at Bedlington Magistrates’ Court on Monday and admitted two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and obstructing a police officer.

He is due to be sentenced for the Blyth attack on 10 August at Newcastle Crown Court.

Northumbria Police said Alan Palin, 66, from Wilfred Street, Boldon Colliery, has been charged with assaulting an emergency worker in South Shields, as well as criminal damage and threatening behaviour. He is due before magistrates in South Tyneside on 25 August.

Durham Police said a 30-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and a police officer following the incident in South Hetton.

He was interviewed and subsequently released under investigation.

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