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More than 10,000 incidents of violence, aggression and assault on ambulance staff recorded during pandemic

MORE than 10,000 incidents of violence, aggression and assault on ambulance workers have been recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, shocking new data reveals.

Freedom of information (FOI) requests revealed that between March 2020 and April this year there were 10,393 incidents of abuse towards ambulance staff — a 12 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.  

Many of the incidents concerned verbal assaults, but over a third — 3,646 — were physical, with some workers being stabbed, punched, kicked or spat at.

Paramedic Mike Jones warned that people “weaponising” spitting during the pandemic was becoming increasingly commonplace.

“Not only do [staff] have to worry about bringing coronavirus back to their families, but also the risk of going to work and getting abused on a daily basis is not acceptable,” he told 5 News, which carried out the investigation.

The FOIs, submitted to all ambulance services in England, revealed the most significant increases were recorded in the south-west, London and the West Midlands.

The South Western Ambulance Service recorded the highest number of assaults — 1,783 — up a third on 2019/20 figures.

Their counterparts in the West Midlands also had a third more cases, with 1,671 incidents reported compared with 1,240 the previous year. Meanwhile, ambulance staff in London saw incidents rise by a quarter from 1,338 to 1,675.

Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) managing director Martin Flaherty said: “It is abhorrent that some individuals feel it is appropriate to attack innocent ambulance staff who are trying to do their job saving lives.

“We are appealing to the public to remember that this could be your mother or father, your brother or sister, your husband or wife. 

“The Assaults on Emergency Workers Offences Act 2018 is in place, but we must now see the judiciary consistently handing out the toughest sentences to stop this happening.”

The GMB union, which represents thousands of ambulance workers, demanded action earlier this year after data showed that 1,688 people were charged with assaulting emergency workers in coronavirus-related incidents between March and September 2020.

Reacting to January’s figures from the Crown Prosecution Service, GMB national officer Rachel Harrison stressed: “Emergency workers need much more protection. The law is only as strong as its enforcement, and sadly these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.”

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