Attacks on ambulance staff on the rise

ATTACKS on ambulance staff have soared by 30% in the past two years – reaching an average of almost one a day.
Workers were subjected to 297 assaults in the past year, significantly up on the 219 attacks reported two years previously.

At least two of the incidents involved paramedics being shot, one of them carried out by children as young as eight.

Health Secretary Alex Neil today vowed that any attack on ambulance staff “will not go unpunished”.

Details of the sickening incidents include a female worker who was shot in “the back of head with a pellet gun” by a gang of eight- to ten-year-old boys while caring for a patient in Glasgow.

Also last year,  a crew member needed surgery to her hand after she was attacked by a pregnant patient furious at being told not to smoke in an ambulance.

The incidents, revealed under Freedom of Information laws, also include an ambulance worker from Grampian needed two days off work in July this year after a radio was thrown at him.

And in March,  a crew member needed blood tests and a tetanus shot after being “bitten on the right hand” by a patient while travelling in an ambulance.

The previous March, in the Lothians area, a worker was subjected to “racial comments” and then assaulted by an “intoxicated female”.

And in Glasgow, in September last year, an ambulance worker was shot with a “firearm” while on duty.


Reporting the incident, he wrote: “I suddenly felt a sharp and excruciating pain in my right shoulder and realised immediately I had been shot.

“It was apparent that I had indeed been shot by a firearm of some description, as there was a hole in my fleece, shirt and t-shirt.

“The wound being grossly swollen, red and the skin had been superficially penetrated with some debris apparent. My colleague cleaned and dressed the wound and we continued with the patient on board to the hospital.”

The figures show that the 219 attacks reported in 2009 increased sharply to 266 the following year and then hit 297 in 2011,

Health Secretary, Alex Neil, today vowed that those who abused ambulance workers would feel the full weight of the law.

He said: “Any attack on ambulance staff or emergency workers is completely unacceptable and will not go unpunished.

“We extended the Emergency Workers Act in 2008, while we provided additional funding in 2010 to health boards to fund projects to counter violence and aggression.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw blasted the number of attacks on ambulance staff, calling them “totally unacceptable.”

He said: “The fact there is an attack on ambulance workers almost every day in Scotland is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Carlaw claimed the government was not doing enough to protect ambulance staff.

“The SNP may brag about recorded crime levels reaching a record low, but this simply is not being experienced on the street,” he said.

“And it certainly isn’t being experienced by ambulance workers, who already have to deal with a difficult job before factoring in idiots who see them as legitimate targets for violence.

“The irony of this behaviour is, it is often the very people they are trying to help who become mindlessly aggressive.

“When someone is convicted of attacking a paramedic, the punishment should be severe enough to make it plainly clear that this will not be tolerated.”

A spokesman from the union Unison, which represents many ambulance staff , said: “Violence against workers is always a concern and even one attack is utterly unacceptable.

“It’s a worrying issue for us of course; violence is worrying for anyone working in a job that faces members of the public.”


A spokesman from the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Ambulance staff undertake a difficult and challenging job in often extreme situations. Increasingly they are subjected to verbal abuse from the public on an almost daily basis as they go about their job. Every year, ambulance crews report over 200 incidents of physical assault, ranging from pushing and punching to spitting and attack with a variety of weapons. This is totally unacceptable.

“They regularly respond to incidents where patients are hurt as a result of violence. They also respond to situations, which on arrival at scene may appear to be perfectly safe and innocuous, but quickly change to something more threatening. In the majority of cases where crews are threatened or assaulted, alcohol is a key factor in the incident.

“The safety of ambulance staff is paramount and the Service has a number of measures in place to protect staff. All crews are given training in management of aggression including, de-escalation and breakaway techniques, and how to undertake a full risk assessment on arrival at scene to establish if there is any potential danger.

“If any ambulance crews feel that their safety may be compromised, they are instructed to hold nearby the scene and await support from the police, or additional ambulance crews.”