No-go 999 zones

» 1,400 places in Bri­tain now too dan­ger­ous to send an am­bu­lance » Paramedics punched, kicked & sex­u­ally as­saulted as at­tacks soar

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - BY NI­COLA SMALL COM­MENT: PAGE 14

AS­SAULTS on am­bu­lance crews have risen by a third, with around eight se­ri­ous at­tacks on paramedics tak­ing place every day, shame­ful fig­ures re­veal.

And more than 1,400 homes in Eng­land are now red-flagged by 999 bosses as “no-go” ar­eas with­out po­lice back-up.

In the worst cases, paramedics are be­ing throt­tled, stabbed and even sex­u­ally as­saulted, data from 10 of the coun­try’s 11 am­bu­lance trusts re­veal. And crew are rou­tinely kicked, punched, spat at and bit­ten in a day’s work.

Govern­ment cuts have put staff at risk as they are more likely to be work­ing alone be­cause of short­ages. And with around 20,000 po­lice of­fi­cers axed since 2010, back-up is not al­ways avail­able.

Last year more than 2,800 staff were at­tacked on duty, up from just over 2,000 in 2013/14. But over the last five years as­saults have soared 36 per cent.

In York­shire, 69 am­bu­lance crew re­ported sex­ual as­saults in 2017.

In Lon­don, re­ported in­juries in­cluded stran­gling and even a case where in­juries led to spinal cord dam­age.

South East Coast Am­bu­lance has seen as­saults nearly dou­ble in five years – from 113 in 2013/14 to 220 in 2017/18.

And the North West ser­vice has 756 ad­dresses red-flagged as no go – half the to­tal num­ber.

GMB union na­tional sec­re­tary Re­hana Azam said: “These fig­ures are ter­ri­fy­ing. Cuts in NHS fund­ing mean am­bu­lance work­ers are more likely to be alone. And po­lice cuts mean back-up isn’t al­ways there.”

Para­medic Amanda Beames, 39, was left men­tally and phys­i­cally scarred af­ter be­ing at­tacked by a pa­tient in an am­bu­lance in Manchester last Septem­ber. Paulius Zacharovas, 30, threat­ened to stab her say­ing: “I will kill you.” He got eight months for as­sault and bat­tery.

In an­other Manchester in­ci­dent last Novem­ber, a para­medic de­vel­oped PTSD af­ter in­tox­i­cated Paula Ku­dray punched, kicked, spat at and bit her. Ku­dray, 41, got a 12-month com­mu­nity order for com­mon as­sault.

STABBED

Martin Fla­herty, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Am­bu­lance Chief Ex­ec­u­tives, said a surge in al­co­hol and drug-re­lated in­ci­dents was also be­hind the rise in vi­o­lence.

And blast­ing the soft court sen­tences, he said: “Al­most none of the per­pe­tra­tors re­ceive cus­to­dial sen­tences when they are pros­e­cuted for as­sault­ing our staff.”

There is hope this will change as a law in­tro­duced last week cre­ates a new of­fence of as­sault­ing an emer­gency ser­vices worker, dou­bling the max­i­mum six months’ jail for com­mon as­sault.

It can­not be used too soon as at­tacks on po­lice con­tinue to rise. In the lat­est, on Fri­day night, a British Trans­port Po­lice of­fi­cer was stabbed at Il­ford sta­tion in East Lon­don and needed hospi­tal treat­ment. A man was ar­rested.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, whose pri­vate mem­ber’s bill forced the law change, said: “Too of­ten courts have taken the view a bit of vi­o­lence is to be ex­pected if you’re do­ing this job. We must have enough staff to pro­vide a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

A North West Am­bu­lance spokes­woman said its lead­ing num­ber of red flagged ad­dresses was down to the trust en­cour­ag­ing staff to re­port all in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence and ag­gres­sion.

The Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care said: “We have com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing NHS fund­ing by £20.5bil­lion a year over the next five years.

“Sup­port­ing the work­force will be a key part of the long term plan for the NHS.”

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