New ‘spit kits’ issued to track down offenders who spit at London’s life savers

20 March 2017

Ambulance crews across London are being issued with DNA kits so police can trace patients who spit on them.

The introduction of ‘spit kits’ into every London Ambulance Service vehicle in the capital comes as emergency service staff are more at risk of assault than ever.

East London-based paramedic Andy Whitehouse was on duty in a fast response car last year when he attended reports of a woman having a seizure on the street. After Andy had treated the woman at the scene and an ambulance had arrived to transport her to hospital, the woman turned to Andy, said ‘this is what I think of you lot’, and spat in his face.

Andy said: “It was the most disgusting thing anyone had ever done to me and it was the most angry I’ve ever been in my life. I would rather be punched in the face.”

The woman was arrested and charged following the incident and a warrant is currently out for her re-arrest.

The spit kit, which London Ambulance Service has developed with the help of the Metropolitan Police Service, will allow medics to take swabs of saliva which will be passed on to the police to track down the offender. The swabs can also be tested for disease.

Andy added: “I think the spit kits are a great idea and it would have provided useful additional evidence at the time. Anything that increases our chances of prosecuting people who commit this kind of revolting act is really welcome.”

There were 456 physical assaults against crews last year. Of these around 50 included spitting.                                                                                                        

Assistant Director of Operations Ian Johns said: “The act of spitting on someone is degrading and disgusting and will not be tolerated. We will do everything in our power to make sure those responsible are dealt with through the courts.

“Our staff should not be expected to tolerate abuse while responding to emergency calls and treating patients. We’re the first ambulance service to introduce these kits and I hope it will act as a deterrent.”

It is hoped the DNA kits, made up of swabs, gloves and special evidence bags for collecting samples, will increase the number of prosecutions of people who assault frontline ambulance crews.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

A total of 456 London Ambulance Service staff were physically assaulted last year (2015/16) compared to 391 the year before (a 16 per cent increase).

Many Transport for London staff, including Tube and bus drivers already have access to the kits, which has dramatically increased the number of offenders identified.

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust is the busiest emergency ambulance service in the UK that provides healthcare that is free to patients at the time they receive it.

We have over 5,000 staff, who work across a wide range of roles based in 70 ambulance stations.

We serve more than nine million people who live and work in the London area. We take over 1.8 million emergency calls a year.

For more information, media enquiries or interview requests please contact the Communications Team on 020 7783 2286 or communications@londonambulance.nhs.uk