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Ambulance crew speak after ‘distressing’ knife incident

13 May 2021

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) crew have spoken about their experience of being threatened by a patient with a knife.

Paramedic Tom and Emergency Care Assistant Catherine responded to a concern for welfare incident at an address near Ferndown, Dorset in January.

Tom and Catherine attempted to reach the patient who responded by threatening to stab them unless they left her. So they retreated to their ambulance and requested police attendance.

They saw the woman at a window holding a kitchen knife and motioning it towards them. They watched her put the knife in her bag and put her coat on.

Tom and Catherine pressed their panic button for an urgent police response, due to concern for the safety of the patient, the public and themselves. 

The woman came outside with the bag apparently containing the knife, and threatened to stab them again if they came near her. She walked away from them, and then police arrived at the scene. 

Catherine and Tom said: “This was a very distressing incident that left us feeling very vulnerable. We come to work to help people, not to be threatened with a knife. These kinds of incidents have an impact not just on victims, but also on their families and colleagues. Frontline workers should be able to their jobs without fear of attack.”

A woman was convicted at Bournemouth Crown Court on 9 April of assaulting an emergency worker - relating to a police officer - criminal damage, and possession of a knife. She was sentenced to an 18-month community order with an 18-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Two counts of assaulting emergency workers, relating to the ambulance crew, were discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A CPS spokesperson explained: “Assaults against those who protect the public in emergency situations are unacceptable. A person can be guilty where they intentionally or recklessly cause another person to expect immediate, unlawful violence will be used against them.  

“In this case, the charges were discontinued because we could not prove the defendant intended the ambulance crew to believe imminent unlawful force would be used and therefore the evidential test was not met.

“The CPS takes assaults of emergency workers very seriously, and we will always seek to prosecute perpetrators when the evidential test has been met.”

In a separate case, an Emergency Care Assistant was injured by a patient with a knife after the patient was told he needed to go to hospital.

The male crew member sustained several minor cuts to his head, and went to A&E for an assessment following the incident in Swindon in February.

Gerald Lee, 56, pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm. He was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on 5 May to 12 months in prison.

Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said: “Our people deal with unacceptable behaviour against them every day while providing emergency care to patients across the South West.

“Any such behaviour can have a serious and lasting impact on the victims, their colleagues and loved ones.

“We take whatever action is necessary to protect our people from harm, and do all we can to ensure those individuals who do abuse and assault our colleagues are prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

“Please respect our people, and help them to help you.”

SWASFT colleagues reported 1,840 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public between 1 May 2020 and 30 April 2021.

The figures included 554 verbal abuse incidents, 464 aggressive behaviour incidents, and 328 physical assaults.  

They represent a 34% increase compared to 1,370 incidents reported during the previous 12 months.

The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May that it is protecting emergency service workers by doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting people in the emergency services.

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South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

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