Paramedic speaks out after Camelford assault prosecution

A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) Paramedic has spoken out after a patient was convicted of assaulting him and his colleagues.

Mike Jones, Newly Qualified Paramedic Will Kivell, and Student Paramedic Richard Waghorn, responded to a potentially serious incident on 12 September in Camelford town centre, involving a man who had fallen and was reportedly unconscious.

The man, who appeared to be intoxicated and under the influence of drugs, became verbally and physically aggressive when they arrived soon after 8pm.

He punched Mike in the chest and spat in his face, attempted to rugby tackle Will, and kicked Richard in the ribs.

Members of the public stepped-in to help restrain the man, and police were called.

The man was arrested and conveyed by ambulance with police escort to hospital for an assessment. He was then taken into custody and charged.

Mike, who needed treatment in the hospital’s emergency department after the incident, said: “I joined the ambulance service to help people in need, and would not have expected to be assaulted.

“Although I enjoy serving my community, being a paramedic can be very challenging.  This was one of the worse incidents I have attended in my time with the ambulance service and in my other role with the police.

“Unfortunately it also meant we were unable to continue responding to patients during a busy night shift.”

Kevin Spillane, 27 of Camelford, was convicted on 14 September at Exeter Magistrates’ Court of four charges of assaulting emergency services workers. He was given a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was ordered to pay a total of £450 compensation, placed on a curfew for four months between the hours of 8am and 6pm, and given a 20-day rehabilitation order with supervision requirement.

Mike added: “We would like to thank the brave actions of members of the public and Devon and Cornwall Police for their prompt action and investigation to bring the male to justice.”

Richard said: “A minority of people take the view that ambulance staff are there to be abused and assaulted.

“Thankfully other people came to assist us that evening, and without their interaction the outcome would have been far worse.”

A SWASFT spokesperson said: “This is another appalling example of the manner in which our people are frequently regarded by some members of the public. We are glad this individual has been prosecuted.

“Nobody should have to face that kind of unacceptable behaviour, especially not our dedicated and compassionate healthcare professionals.

“Sadly they face violence and aggression every day while they are trying to protect and save people’s lives, which can have serious consequences on them, their families and colleagues.

 

“Our people put themselves at risk for the sake of others, and we support whatever action is necessary to protect them from harm and ensure they feel safe.

“Please respect our people, and help them to help you.”

Ambulance staff reported 153 physical assaults by patients and other members of the public between 23 March and 23 September. That represented a 58% increase on the 97 reported assaults during the same time period in 2019.

They also reported 249 incidents of verbal abuse during the six months, compared with 228 last year. More than one in four (69) of the verbal incidents were by callers to 999 Control Room staff.

Paramedic Tracy Higginbottom shared a video message after she was spat at by a patient she was taking to hospital by ambulance in North Cornwall.

Tracy, who has been a paramedic for more than 20 years, said the incident in July left her feeling “contaminated”, and she took a month off work to recover.

In response to a letter from Tracy, Scott Mann MP for North Cornwall said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of her experience.

“Those who assault emergency service personnel should face the most severe punishments, proportional to the offence committed,” he added.

The #Unacceptable campaign, which was launched in 2018, aims to highlight the abuse and assaults faced by emergency services workers while on the job.

People who assault emergency services can now face up to two years imprisonment after the government doubled the maximum penalty earlier this month.

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