20 March 2017
Ambulance crews across London are
being issued with DNA kits so police can trace patients who spit on
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
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
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
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.
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