South West Ambulance Service provides emergency and urgent care across an area of 10,000 square miles – covering Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire – which is 20% of mainland England and is predominantly rural. Now they are warning that unacceptable assaults on emergency services staff tackling the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic will not be tolerated.
More than 100 SWASFT staff including frontline paramedics and 999 call handlers experience violence and aggression while on duty every month. For example, a man in Gloucestershire was jailed for 20 weeks last week for coughing in a paramedic’s face. Meanwhile, a woman in Somerset was charged with assaulting a paramedic called out to treat her, and is due in court later this month.
Now emergency services organisations are uniting together to highlight this unacceptable problem faced by staff across the region during the COVID-19 crisis.
They warn that action will be taken to prosecute offenders and protect staff.
Ken Wenman, SWASFT Chief Executive said: “Our ambulance crews and control room staff are working tirelessly on the frontline to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am so proud of and thankful for them all.
“Any verbal, mental or physical assault against an emergency services staff member or key worker is completely unacceptable.
“Sadly we received 1330 incidents of violence and aggression towards our staff in the last year, which is an increase of 16% on the previous year.
“Unfortunately these incidents have continued during the COVID-19 crisis when our staff are working in an extremely challenging environment to protect and save lives.
“We support whatever action is necessary to protect our staff from harm and ensure those responsible for any attacks are prosecuted.”
Jennifer Winslade, SWASFT Executive Director of Quality and Clinical Care, said: “Our staff are subject to abuse and aggression every day while trying to provide fantastic care to patients. In March we saw a significant increase in aggressive behaviour towards our staff. This is #Unacceptable.”
The ambulance service is encouraging people to support the #Unacceptable campaign by sharing supportive messages on social media.
It is also reminding people to follow the national guideless of staying at home, maintaining social distance and practising good hygiene.