11,000 ambulance staff attacked last year as national work without fear campaign is launched

A national ambulance #WorkWithoutFear campaign has been launched after new figures found over 11,000 ambulance staff were attacked last year.
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During 2020/21, 11,749 ambulance staff were abused either physically or verbally in England, which is an increase of 4,060 incidents compared to 2016/17.

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In the Yorkshire and Humber region, there has been a 75 per cent rise in reported incidents of physical and verbal abuse towards staff in the last five years.

Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked across the country. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked across the country. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked across the country. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

1,387 incidents in 2020/21 compared to 795 in 2016/17.

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Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked across the country, and some of those who have been attacked or abused are leading a national campaign to promote respect in a bid to work without fear.

The face of the campaign is paramedic Sarah, who has faced violence, aggression and racist abuse from those she helps.

"When I was being shouted at and called awful names by the man we had gone to help, so many just stood by and watched." she said.

The most significant rise covered the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when assaults across the country jumped up by 23 per cent compared with the year before. They included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving knives and weapons.

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Alcohol is the most prominent factor in assaults against ambulance staff, followed by drugs and people in mental health crisis. Attacks based around race and sexuality have also increased as exacerbating factors in these assaults.

The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives – with support from NHS England - yesterday (February 28) launched the national #WorkWithoutFear campaign to highlight the profound impact of this abuse on the everyday lives of ambulance staff and to encourage the minority of people who might commit these offences to have respect for the people who are trying to help them, their friends and families when they need it most.

Nick Smith, Executive Director of Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said:

“Our staff are here to help people when they are most in need and, very sadly, they face the possibility of violence, assault and aggression every time they start a shift. When they occur, these verbal and physical attacks can have a significant and lasting impact on individuals, affecting all aspects of their lives. Despite this, ambulance service colleagues continue to show dedication in turning up for work to care for patients and serving their local communities.

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“We very much hope this campaign raises awareness of the impact of this appalling behaviour on individuals, highlights how unacceptable violence and aggression are in any form and ensures that our staff are treated with the respect they deserve.”

The campaign will feature several staff from all over the country who have been the victims of assault, including West Midlands Ambulance Service paramedics Deena Evans and Michael Hipgrave, who saw their attacker jailed for nine years after he stabbed them as they went to help him in Wolverhampton in July 2020.

People are being urged to pledge their support for this campaign by using #WorkWithoutFear on social media and by visiting www.aace.org.uk/vaa to view films about some of those affected.

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