South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has said that its staff are continuing to experience an escalating number of assaults and abuse by patients.
SWASFT staff reported 1,747 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public during the first 12 months after the UK went into its first lockdown in 2020.
From 24 March 2020 to 23 March 2021, the shocking figures include 515 verbal abuse incidents, 447 aggressive behaviour incidents, and 322 physical assaults.
The figures represent an increase of 33% from the previous 12 months.
Frontline ambulance staff around the country have been working extended tours of duty since the pandemic began. These extended shifts have put pressure on not only their mental health but their physical health too.
Newly Qualified SWASFT Paramedics Dan Williams and Kyiah Ellis were among those assaulted on duty by a patient.
They responded to a potentially serious incident involving a reportedly unconscious man on a bus in the Weston area of Bath on 12 February.
The man, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, became physically and verbally aggressive soon after the medics arrived on the scene, at around 18:50 hours.
The male exited the bus, headbutted its wing mirror and windscreen, and punched a parked car.
Dan and Kyiah were forced to call for police assistance as they retreated onto the bus for their safety.
The man re-entered the bus and spat in Dan’s eye while shouting at him and Kyiah. He was arrested by police, taken into custody and charged.
The man was convicted at Bath Magistrates’ Court on 15 February of three charges of assaulting emergency services workers and one charge of criminal damage.
He was sentenced to 32 weeks in prison and ordered to pay a total of £300 compensation to the victims.
Dan and Kyiah said:
“We welcome the prosecution, and thank the police and SWASFT for their support throughout this. We are disappointed that simply doing our job, and ultimately likely saving the life of the patient, resulted in us being assaulted and fearing for our own safety.
“Assaults against our ambulance colleagues are never acceptable, and leave a lasting effect on those there simply to help.”
Another man was jailed for six months on 28 January following his assault on Paramedic Matt Bryant who was called to treat him in Plymouth.
“We are working so hard to help people during a global pandemic. But assaults are becoming more of a regular occurrence, and they have a significant impact on us.”
Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said:
“Sadly our people are victim every day to unacceptable behaviour from a minority of patients and other members of the public, while they are serving the communities of the South West and saving lives. Any such incident can have a lasting impact on them, their loved ones, and other colleagues.
“We take whatever is necessary to protect our people from harm, including doing all we can to ensure offenders are prosecuted through the criminal justice system.
“Please respect our people, and help them to help you.”
The #Unacceptable campaign, launched in 2018 by SWASFT, aims to highlight the abuse and assaults faced by emergency services workers while on the job.
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