Increase in assaults on London ambulance staff

More ambulance workers are being attacked on the capital’s streets according to new figures.

A total of 470 physical assaults* on ambulance staff were recorded in London last year (2010/11) – an increase of 36 per cent from 2009/10 (up from 346).

The figures, released today (Thursday 10 November) by NHS Protect, also show that action** was taken against 93 offenders following the assaults on London Ambulance Service staff.

Deputy Director of Operations Jason Killens said: “It‘s absolutely unacceptable that our staff are being attacked while trying to do their job and care for patients, and we will do everything in our power to encourage staff to report these incidents and work with the police and prosecuting authorities to make sure those responsible are dealt with through the courts.”

Student Paramedic Helen Parsons had the tendon in her finger bitten through after she was assaulted by a drunk patient last year.

Helen, who needed surgery after the incident, said: “He kept his teeth clamped on my finger while I tried to get him to let go and call for help from my crewmate. I managed to get the side door of the ambulance open and jumped out, dragging him with me. When he fell out of the ambulance my crewmate was able to prise his mouth open and free my finger.”

The man was given a 36-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £7,500 compensation.

Jason added: “Assaults on our frontline staff are becoming an all too familiar part of the job, and these figures don’t take into account the verbal abuse staff deal with. The vast majority of our patients are very appreciative of the work we do, however, it is a small minority who turn to violence.

 “The risk to our staff is heightened when patients or patients’ friends are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but this should never be considered as an excuse for what they might do.”

NHS Protect has recently signed a working agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers in an effort to curb violence against health workers.

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Notes to editors:

• * NHS defines a physical assault as ‘the intentional application of force to the person of another without lawful justification, resulting in physical injury or personal discomfort’ (this includes being spat on).
• **Action includes cautions, community rehabilitation or punishment orders or other community sentences, imprisonment (including suspended or deferred sentences), conditional discharge, fines or compensation and fixed penalty notices.
• To request an interview with Helen contact the communications department on 020 7783 2286.
• For further information about the London Ambulance Service or this news release please contact the communications department.
• Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ldn_ambulance or visit us on facebook at www.facebook.com/londonambulanceservice
• The national data is available on the NHS Protect website (www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/Protect.aspx) under publications.