No-go 999 zones
» 1,400 places in Britain now too dangerous to send an ambulance » Paramedics punched, kicked & sexually assaulted as attacks soar
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.
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.”