Call to get tough on ambulance crew attackers

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A CALL for tougher penalties for assault on ambulance crews has followed a 10 per cent increase in attacks.

The East of England Ambulance Trust said on Wednesday that 140 staff were assaulted in 116 separate incidents in 2010/11, compared to 125 staff assaulted in 94 incidents in 2009/10.

Of the six counties covered by the trust, only Cambridgeshire showed a drop, down from 25 to 24 reported attacks. Suffolk was up four to 20 and Norfolk was up by more than three times with reported incidents rising from eight in 2009/10 to 25.

There have been several successful prosecutions but Unison’s branch secretary for the trust, Mildenhall-based Gary Applin said: “The union and the trust have a zero tolerance policy but whether outside organisations do their jobs to take it to a suitable conclusion is debatable. I was looking at a case where the Crown Prosecution Service said it wasn’t in the public interest to prosecute – that’s not right for our staff.

“We’re all trying to care for people and it’s worrying that there’s a trend of increasing attacks. I don’t know what the solution is, apart from tougher penalties.”

Neither he nor the trust could explain the huge increase in Norfolk, but Mr Applin said assaults were reported in the same way in all the trust’s counties.

But he stressed: “On the whole you turn up to patients who are glad to see you, who need your help. It’s the minority who get highlighted but one assault can ruin your feelings for the job. One assault is too many.”

Trust health, safety and security manager Danny Daniel said: “These acts of aggression carried out while staff try to go about their work helping those in need not only affects those staff themselves but potentially presents challenges in getting resources out to other incidents.

“The ability of ambulance crews to work safely and unhindered is paramount not only for their own wellbeing but also that of other patients, and we totally condemn any violence carried out against them. Such attacks have potentially very serious consequences.”