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Assaults against ambulance colleagues rise during pandemic

31 March 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) workers are continuing to experience an escalating number of assaults and abuse by patients.

SWASFT colleagues reported 1,747 incidents of violence and aggression from patients and other members of the public during the 12 months after the UK first went into lockdown last year.

The figures, from 24 March 2020 to 23 March 2021, include 515 verbal abuse incidents, 447 aggressive behaviour incidents, and 322 physical assaults.  

They represent a 33% increase in reported incidents from the previous 12 months.

Newly Qualified Paramedics Dan Williams and Kyiah Ellis were among those assaulted on duty by a patient.

They responded to a potentially serious incident, involving a man who was reportedly unconscious on a bus, in the Weston area of Bath on 12 February.

The man, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, became physically and verbally aggressive soon after they arrived around 6.50pm.

He exited the bus, headbutted its wing mirror and windscreen, and punched a parked car.

Dan and Kyiah called for police assistance and retreated onto the bus for their safety.

The man re-entered the bus and spat in Dan’s eye, while continuing to shout at him and Kyiah. He was arrested by police, taken into custody and charged.

The man was convicted at Bath Magistrates’ Court on 15 February of three charges of assaulting emergency services workers, and one charge of criminal damage. He was sentenced to 32 week in prison and ordered to pay a total of £300 compensation to the victims. 

Dan and Kyiah said: "We welcome the prosecution, and thank the police and SWASFT for their support throughout this. We are disappointed that simply doing our job, and ultimately likely saving the life of the patient, resulted in us being assaulted and fearing for our own safety. Assaults against our ambulance colleagues are never acceptable, and leave a lasting effect on those there simply to help.”

Another man was jailed for six months on 28 January following his assault on Paramedic Matt Bryant who was called to treat him in Plymouth.

Matt said: “We are working so hard to help people during a global pandemic. But assaults are becoming more of a regular occurrence, and they have a significant impact on us.”

Paramedic Mike Jones, who is SWASFT’s Violence Reduction Lead, said: “Sadly our people are victim every day to unacceptable behaviour from a minority of patients and other members of the public, while they are serving the communities of the South West and saving lives. Any such incident can have a lasting impact on them, their loved ones, and other colleagues.

“We take whatever is necessary to protect our people from harm, including doing all we can to ensure offenders are prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

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

The #Unacceptable campaign, launched in 2018, aims to highlight the abuse and assaults faced by emergency services workers while on the job.

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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.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charities/SWASC.