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Four in Ten Paramedics Assaulted Last Year

1 March 2016
 March 1, 2016

Paramedics are our lifeline – first at the scene and first to help in a medical emergency.

However, shocking statistics revealed by The New Day newspaper found that 40 per cent or Ambulance crews are physically attacked by the public and nine in 10 are showing signs of becoming mentally ill.

The investigation uncovered a surge in violent attacks, soaring 999 calls, and burned-out paramedics fleeing the service. Research shows that Paramedics have a rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 5.5 times that of war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Almost a quarter of ambulance staff have PTSD, according to research published in the British Medical Journal, compared to four per cent of army veterans.

Figures obtained by the newspaper show that violence on call-outs is increasingly commonplace.

Two-fifths of ambulance staff say they were violently attacked at least once in 2015, up from just over a third the year before. The figure is 62 per cent among the basic-trained emergency care assistants who work alongside paramedics, up from 46 per cent in 2014.

Overall, 2.7 per cent of crews had been assaulted more than 10 times in a single year.

David Davies, 41 was a paramedic for 16 years but no longer works on the frontline, said: “It was often booze and drugs. There were so many incidents I can’t remember them all.

‘I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve been attacked’

“It’s a tough and also very rewarding job, but what you don’t expect are the high levels of anxiety and fear of reprisals for ‘failure’ when things go wrong. You feel you have to be perfect every time, and you simply can’t be.”

“Myself and my crewmate got called to a nightclub punch-up one Saturday. The police were understaffed. We got one of the injured in the back – he didn’t really need medical care, he was just drunk. He started swearing and grabbing me and trying to beat me up. We had to throw him out. I came back to the ambulance station in shock. I’d never been assaulted before.

“I had another patient who was intoxicated and kicking me in the chest on the way to hospital. I had to call the police.”

By the end of last year, 6,246 addresses nationwide were blacklisted for a history of attacks or abuse against ambulance crews, with warnings not to return without police backup or extreme caution. Back in August 2014, we highlighted the case where a patient died after a lone working paramedic refused to enter the property on her own, fearing for her own safety.

In 2014, 86 per cent of paramedics reported working extra hours and crews took 41,243 sick days due to stress.

Mr Davis, who is now mental health liaison at the College of Paramedics, said support was patchy and dependent on trusts. He said: “Years ago you got a lot more time on station. You teased each other about assaults as a way of coping. It was informal counselling. These days because of the pressure there’s no time, you’re straight out again.

“I’m lucky, though. I had a friend whose nose was broken and his shoulder dislocated. Another had to retire, haunted by images of children she couldn’t save. Another was involved in a gun incident.

He added: “I take my hat off to those still on the frontline. They are doing a fantastic job against all the odds and we need to support them.”

Paramedics join the growing number of assaults and attacks on frontline NHS staff. There were 95,000 physical and verbal assaults last year by patients and their families. Nurses are four times more likely to suffer an attack than most other workers – second only to the police and security services, says a report by the Public Accounts Committee.