Wiganers asked to support paramedics against attack thugs

Ambulances at Wigan Infirmary. Emergency services staff are facing unacceptable levels of abuse
Ambulances at Wigan Infirmary. Emergency services staff are facing unacceptable levels of abuse

The ambulance service is asking Wiganers to back a new high-profile campaign condemning aggression and violence against paramedics.

Get Behind 999 is being launched today to tackle the “unacceptable” level of physical threats staff from the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) are facing.

Shocking figures released by the emergency service show there were 2,359 incidents involving ambulance employees in the past five years in Greater Manchester.

Staff faced 542 assaults, 583 incidents which did not involve a weapon, 369 acts of aggression and 223 injuries when patients had to be restrained for safety reasons.

Shockingly there were also 73 incidents where the perpetrator had a weapon, 57 sexual incidents and 55 cases where paramedics or other workers were actually threatened with a knife or other blade.

There were also 127 examples of employees being sworn at while on duty, 49 other kinds of threats, 31 cases of racial abuse, three incidents of homophobic remarks being directed at staff, one example of religiously-motivated abuse and two cases where ambulance employees were faced with a stick or club.

NWAS has now set up an online pledge so the public can send a message that violence against those trying to save lives will not be tolerated.

The service’s interim chief executive Mick Forrest said: “This is a problem which affects us all. If an ambulance crew are attacked while out on the road, they need to come off duty. They might need treatment, or to provide the

police with statements and this takes a vital resource off the road and unable to
respond to an emergency.

“One of my worst fears as interim chief executive is that I am going to be woken in the night to be informed of the death or life changing injury of a colleague because of an assault.

“I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to manage a situation like that and I sincerely hope I never have to.

“Our staff are not just paramedics, technicians, dispatchers or 111 health advisors – they are mums, dads, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

“There is more to them than a uniform or voice on the telephone and for them to have to go home to their families hurt or upset is not acceptable.

“Please pledge your support and sign now, show our staff you are behind them.

“It will mean a great deal to them to know that the public they serve are taking a stand against this kind of behaviour. It must stop now.”

Mr Forrest said abuse of the emergency services is a growing problem and NWAS staff will join employees from the fire service and police to speak about their own experiences at the launch event.

A short film will also be played and NWAS will spend the next fortnight highlighting the issue on social media.

The number of attacks on people working for the ambulance service has steadily risen from 939 incidents of physical, verbal abuse and threatening behaviour in 2013-14 to the 1,249 reported in 2017-18.

The emergency services believe this is just the tip of the iceberg as many staff have sadly become so used to abuse they think it is part of the job and do not bother highlighting it for further action.

Alcohol consumption is thought to be a major factor in many incidents and NWAS will be providing pubs and clubs with posters and beer mats to press home the message.

Clubs, social groups and businesses will also be given certificates if they sign the pledge.

The law is attempting to clamp down on abuse with the recently-introduced Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 doubling the maximum sentence for attacks on frontline staff from six to 12 months in prison.

Judges must also consider tougher sentences for other offences such as GBH or sexual assault if an emergency worker is the victim.

The pledge is available to sign here