Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked nationally. Now, some of those who were attacked or abused are spearheading a national campaign to promote respect in a bid to work without fear.
Shockingly, 11,749 ambulance staff were abused either physically or verbally in England last year, an increase of 4,060 incidents compared to 2016. In the West Midlands alone, there has been a staggering 88% rise in physical and verbal abuse towards staff in the last five years. (1671 incidents in 2021 compared to 887 in 2016).
Abuse included staff being stabbed, punched, kicked, head-butting, spat at as well as verbal abuse including racial and homophobic outbursts. The attacks ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving weapons. Alcohol is the most prominent factor in assaults against ambulance staff, followed by drugs and people in mental health crisis. Attacks based around race and sexuality have also increased as exacerbating factors in these assaults.
The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives has today launched the national #WorkWithoutFear campaign, supported by NHS England, to highlight the profound impact of this abuse on the everyday lives of ambulance staff. It aims to encourage the minority of people who might commit these offences to have respect for the people who respond to help them, their friends and their families when they need it most.
The campaign is set to feature ambulance staff from all across the country who have been the victims of assaults, including four from West Midlands Ambulance Service. Birmingham Paramedic Sarah Haddada and Brierley Hill-based Call Assessor Bradley Bayton-Harvey are the first two staff featuring in the campaign. They share their experience of the racial verbal abuse and threatening comments they’ve endured whilst trying to help others. Later in the campaign, which will be running for several months, Willenhall Paramedics Deena Evans and Michael Hipgrave are set to feature. Their attacker was jailed last year for nine years after he stabbed them as they went to help him in Wolverhampton in 2020.
West Midlands Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “My staff come to work to care for others in their time of need, yet all too often they are greeted by violence and abuse. Assaults on ambulance staff, whether it be physical or verbal, are not okay and I fully support this campaign. I hope that it opens people’s eyes to the impact that abuse has on staff as well as reinforcing the message that abusive behaviour of any form is totally unacceptable.
“My staff deserve to be treated with respect and shouldn’t face a fear of attack whilst helping others. I have nothing but admiration for the brave staff taking part in the campaign in order to raise awareness of the dangers they and other emergency service workers face on a daily basis.
“I urge the Judiciary to use the Assaults on Emergency Workers Offences Act 2018 legislation to give appropriate sentences to those found guilty of committing this abhorrent abuse towards ambulance staff.”
WMAS Joint Staffside Lead, Reena Farrington, added: “I welcome this national campaign which outlines a growing problem amongst ambulance workers. It is extremely disturbing that some staff report that receiving abuse is almost part and parcel of doing the job; in no other section of our society would this be deemed acceptable, yet that is what some people think is ok for ambulance staff.
“My colleagues work so hard to try and provide care and compassion at some of the most difficult times in our patients’ lives; they invest their skills and life in doing the right thing yet this is the thanks they get from some patients or their family and friends. It has to stop and stop now. I can only hope that the campaign will shine a bright light on this appalling behaviour and that everyone will work with us to stamp it out.”
The public can pledge their support for this campaign by using #WorkWithoutFear on social media and by visiting www.aace.org.uk/vaa to view films about some of those affected.