Unacceptable assaults

Monday, 09 October, 2017


The emergency services from across the South West have come together to highlight the unacceptable trend in the number of assaults on their staff while on duty. Police, ambulance, fire and healthcare staff are regularly subjected to attacks from those they are trying to help, including verbal abuse, spitting, biting and even sexual assault.

During 2016, paramedics from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) were on the receiving end of more than 161 assaults, this is an increase of 20% compared to five years ago. The type of injuries ambulance crews have received range from cuts and bruising and sprains through to more serious injuries such as dislocations and fractures.
Out of the 140 reported incidents by crews, 50 have resulted in successful police cautions and prosecutions which range from suspended sentence, community service orders, restorative orders, fines and even imprisonment.

One incident in Torquay saw Paramedic Stuart Riley and Karen Lott, Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) subjected to a prolonged serious assault. They were attempting to treat a person who was under the influence of a new psychoactive substance who turned violent. Karen is bravely back at work, even though the vicious attack has affected her.

David Partlow, Consultant Paramedic for SWASFT, said: "We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of physical or verbal abuse towards our staff, and all reports of violence and aggression are taken very seriously. We work closely with the police to seek prosecutions where possible."

The Trust encourages all incidents to be reported as soon as possible and has a robust reporting mechanism in place. Staff are also supported by the SWASFT Staying Well Service which provides immediate access to numerous sources of support including specialist counselling and physiotherapy. Police and other blue light services also have similar welfare services in place for their staff.

Devon and Cornwall Police, alone, have seen 2,009 days lost to police officers unable to work on the frontline as a result of being assaulted throughout 2016; this equates to around £1m in salary costs.

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