The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has responded to an increase in the number of assaults and instances of abuse against their life-saving staff, with a new publicity campaign that spells out the severe impact that such abuse and assaults have on their crews and on their ability to do their vital life-saving jobs.
The ‘Choose Respect’ campaign, launched earlier this week, features shocking images of emergency ambulance crew members who have been assaulted while on duty. The photos are accompanied by some words which have been written by the medics, describing being attacked or being sexually assaulted while responding to emergency calls. The crews also outline how what they experienced also affected their ability to be able to do their life-saving work.
Alex, 27, is an Emergency Medical Technician, working out of Thetford, who volunteered to feature in the campaign.
He was assaulted on Boxing Day 2019 by a violent drunk, causing him to be off work for more than a week. He said:
“We had taken our patient to West Suffolk Hospital when there was a problem with another patient being admitted in front of us. The patient became aggressive to the duty sister and the students, and when I went over to him, he punched my colleague.
“I managed to push him out of the door, where he began to try and break into the back of an ambulance before he returned and tried to hit me.
“I dodged the punch but didn’t expect the head-butt. The security team and two passing prison guards came to my assistance, and the police took him away.
“There was no major damage, but I was off work for a week and a half as I couldn’t drive because of headaches. And I had a black eye for three weeks.
“I’m more hesitant now about going into situations that are flagged as potentially violent… instead of going in and seeing what the situation is, I’ll wait until the Police arrive.”
Chief Executive Dorothy Hosein said the campaign was intended to make people aware that assaults against staff were not without consequences:
“We are seeing a steady increase in assaults and abuse, year-on-year from just over 1,000 incidents in 2015-16 to over 1,300 in 2018-19.
“This has to stop. There were 250 incidents between March 1 and June 11 this year alone.
“Not only does this cause terrible long-term physical and psychological harm to our employees, but clinicians and other essential staff needing time off work because of assaults or abuse affects our capacity to serve the public during the pandemic.
“No-one deserves to be abused at work, but we will not tolerate our staff – who are only ever there to help people – being abused and left unable to work, at a time when the public really needs them.
“We will always support our staff and work with the police to secure convictions and the strongest penalties wherever appropriate.”
The campaign comes at a time when assaults on emergency workers are at an all-time high with the police, ambulance and fire service all recording an increase in the number of assaults on their front-line staff.
The government has recently announced that it will be bringing forward a law to increase the maximum sentence for anyone who is found guilty of assaulting an emergency worker from 12 to 24 months imprisonment.