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Ambulance staff assaulted by drunk patients back trust’s new ‘Don’t Choose to Abuse’ campaign

PUBLISHED: 15:27 27 November 2017

Robert Morton, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Robert Morton, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service. Picture: SU ANDERSON

The region’s ambulance service has launched a new campaign to reassert its zero tolerance policy on abuse as the number of staff assaulted while on duty continues to rise.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) has a new message for members of the public receiving emergency care: Don’t Choose to Abuse.

Every year the problem gets worse and in 2016/17 more than 250 physical attacks were recorded against ambulance workers – an increase of 10% from the previous year.

Robert Morton, EEAST chief executive, said: “Ambulance managers, staff and volunteers work hard to save lives and protect the vulnerable in our communities. It is totally unacceptable that they face violence and aggression, whether in person or over the phone, when they are trying to do their best for our patients.

“If someone is drunk or has taken drugs, they are still responsible for their actions. There is no excuse. Our staff should be able to do their job without fear of being attacked.”

In a survey of EEAST staff, more than 10% said they regularly experienced physical abuse while working.

Physical assaults can have a devastating impact on staff, with some requiring treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Out of the 250-plus assaults committed against EEAST staff last year, around 40 have so far resulted in criminal sanctions.

Chelmsford-based emergency medical technician Ian Watkins was attacked while trying to help a drunk man with a head injury.

The perpetrator was jailed for six months.

Mr Watkins said: “It has definitely changed the way I approach jobs and I am warier and on my guard, especially if I’m going to a drunk patient.

“There is no excuse. The more we can get prosecutions, the more the public will understand that it is unacceptable.”

Mark Little, a duty locality officer in Waveney, was assaulted by a patient intoxicated and who had taken drugs.

His attacker was sentenced to 12 weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, as well as a community order.

“There is no excuse and physical assaults against staff will not be tolerated,” Mr Little said. “Even if they are intoxicated or taken drugs they are still responsible for their actions.”

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