Ambulance workers have been violently attacked more than 9,500 times while in the line of duty over the last five years, it has been revealed.

Data from the GMB union has shown staff have been subject to thousands of attacks, including being spat at, head-butted and bitten.

There have also been more than 1,200 sexual assaults, it has been reported.

Figures from 2017-2022 have come from a Freedom of Information Act response from eight out of the 13 major ambulance trusts.

According to the GMB it shows there has been a 27% rise in the number of violent incidents in the last five years.

In 2021, there were 11,749 attacks against ambulance staff, equating to 32 workers being abused or attacked every day, according to a separate report from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

However, it is believed the true number of attacks is said to be much higher, as five of the trusts failed to respond to the FOI request.

A full breakdown shows there were 1,597 attacks in 2017-18, 1,924 in 2018-19, 1,871 in 2019-20, 2,141 in 2020-21, and 2,032 in the last twelve months, bringing the total to 9,565 incidents in five years.

Blue light crews were crews bitten, head-butted, spat at, and struck with weapons, it also showed, while some GMB staff have shared their own disturbing experiences.

Earlier this year a man was jailed for three years after he sexually assaulted an ambulance worker and urinated on life-saving equipment.

James Macky, 58, from London was sentenced for sexual assault, criminal damage, and causing racially aggravated fear or provocation of violence.

He was sent to three years behind bars after the violent and disgusting attack last summer.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘Ambulance workers go to work every day to save lives. 

‘Despite this, thousands of them are bitten, attacked, spat at and even sexually assaulted.

‘No one should have to put up with that, least of all those who are there to protect us.

‘GMB members helped change the law but more needs to be done.

‘We demand full enforcement of the Protect the Protectors legislation, investment in better systems to flag offenders, and much better support for the victims of violence.’

Speaking today at the GMB conference in Brighton, Richard Harlington, who has worked for 12 years in the sector, said at least five ambulance workers are assaulted every day.

He said: ‘Assaults on ambulance staff have never been higher. We did amazing work to bring stronger laws and protect our protectors, however unfortunately this only works if people are charged.

‘At this time unfortunately for many people in the ambulance sector we do not see this.

‘Staff are often forced to return to work before they are ready due to pressures from management under sickness policies, without regard for their actual welfare and need.

‘So many staff suffer from physical or sexual assaults that result in PTSD and they get no real support from their work.

‘Ambulance workers deserve so much better than being assaulted when they are just trying to protect the public.

‘We deserve to be protected from assaults, and we deserve for assaults to be properly prosecuted, and we demand to be fully supported and treated with dignity.’

Wendy Cox, who has worked for the service for 28 years also spoke about the rise in violence.

She gave an example of when a female member of staff was left with PTSD after having her chest grabbed by a mental health patient.

She also told of how one paramedic had his testicles ‘twisted and grabbed’ by the son of a patient who believed his father had a stroke, after waiting four hours for an ambulance.

GMB’s ambulance members successfully changed the law in 2018 when the Assaults Against Emergency Workers (Offences) Act made assaults on ambulance workers an aggravating factor for sentencing.

A government spokesperson said: ‘Assaults on members of our emergency services are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

‘The government has doubled the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker so those convicted face up to two years’ imprisonment, with escalating sentences for more serious incidents.

‘We are also working closely with NHS England as it takes action to prevent and reduce violence against staff, including through body-worn camera trials and a national violence prevention hub to ensure NHS staff can work in a safe environment.

 ‘The NHS Violence Reduction Programme aims to protect staff and ensure offenders are punished quickly and effectively.’

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2023-06-04T17:50:42Z dg43tfdfdgfd