Concern at attacks on 999 staff

A SHOCKING catalogue of attacks against frontline 999 emergency staff can be revealed today.

Anthony Bond

A SHOCKING catalogue of attacks against frontline 999 emergency staff can be revealed today.

Details released to the EADT show that ambulance crews, police officers and firefighters attending emergency call outs in Suffolk are assaulted on an almost daily basis.

Some of the most alarming incidents include:

A person trying to stab a paramedic in the face with a needle in Ipswich.

Paramedics threatened with knives and guns and spat at in towns across Suffolk.

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Firefighters in Ipswich threatened that they will be doused in petrol and set on fire.

A patient making sexually explicit comments to a paramedic in Bury St Edmunds and grabbing her breasts.

Firefighters in Haverhill shot at with an air rifle and attacked with bricks.

The shocking details of attacks, released following a Freedom of Information request, show that the attacks are not just carried out by drunken yobs.

In one incident the manager of a care home was verbally abusive to an out-of-hours GP service, while in another case a patient's relatives threatened to kill paramedics. Shockingly, a lorry driver who had blocked the path of an ambulance attending an emergency became abusive when he was asked to move.

Other incidents include paramedics entering a house in the Waveney area confronted by a patient holding a gun while in one incident in Bury St Edmunds a paramedic was head-butted, punched, kneed and spat at.

Details of the attacks follow last month's revelations that there were 1,396 assaults on NHS staff in Suffolk and North Essex for 2008-9 - which amounts to three a day.

Last night, John Toomey, Unison's regional organiser, criticised the judicial system for not being stricter with people who attack the emergency services and warned that lives were being put at risk.

“We are very concerned because they are becoming increasingly serious” he said. “We have been concerned over a number of years about the leniency taken by some magistrates when they address these cases.

“The people carrying out these attacks are behaving despicably. They need to understand that they are putting other people's lives at risk. Sadly, the judicial system does not seem to understand that sufficiently well enough.”

The figures show that police officers are the most attacked with 1,773 physical and verbal assaults against them in the past five years. In the same period there have been 199 attacks against ambulance crews and 14 against firefighters.

Between 2004-5 and 2007-8, 44 police officers and staff needed time off with sickness because of an assault.

Marcus Bailey, general manager for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk, said bosses would not tolerate any abuse meted out to staff and would take action against offenders.

Paul Collins, area manager for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “After being on the receiving end of being ambushed it leaves you with a total feeling of desperation because you are trying to do your best and you end up on the receiving end of an attack. It is difficult to quantify why as a member of the emergency services you find yourself in that position.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “The health and safety of our officers and staff is a priority for the Constabulary. Whilst we'd like to see no officers assaulted whilst on duty, it is fortunate that the numbers assaulted do remain extremely low compared to other areas of the country.”

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