Paramedics under threat of attack

THEY are our angels of mercy — but everyday our lifesaving paramedics are living under the threat of violence.Cases of attacks on ambulance crews are on course to make a rapid rise this year but the East Anglian Ambulance Trust have issued a warning that they will not stand for people assaulting their staff.

By Jessica Nicholls

THEY are our angels of mercy — but everyday our lifesaving paramedics are living under the threat of violence.

Cases of attacks on ambulance crews are on course to make a rapid rise this year but the East Anglian Ambulance Trust have issued a warning that they will not stand for people assaulting their staff.

Last year's figures between April 2001 and March 2002, saw 29 attacks within Suffolk, but between April and September this year, there have already been 23 reported violent incidents.


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Nationally the situation has become so bad that only this week Bristol-based Avon Ambulance Service warned it will not pick up people who have a history of violence against its staff.

Paramedic Malcolm Walker knows only too well about what can happen after he was attacked by a crazed drug user in the confined space of his ambulance.

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And one of his colleagues is likely to be off work for six weeks or more after suffering an injury while trying to treat an aggressive drunk.

Mr Walker from Martlesham, believes he is lucky not to have been badly injured when a drug addict who needed stitches in his arms became extremely agitated in the back of his ambulance.

Mr Walker, 40, said: "He was very agitated and was trying to rip the bandages of his arms and was also trying to hit me.

"Instead for some reason he hit the side of the ambulance in rage and ripped down all the netting.

"He then opened the back door and tried to jump out, but because of the cuts on his arms there was blood everywhere."

The patient then jumped from the ambulance and began turning on Malcolm and his partner.

Mr Walker said: "I was lucky that my colleague who was with me managed to talk to him and calm him down and distracted him. But he then began chasing us around the ambulance."

The police were called but when they arrived it took around seven officers to get subdue the patient.

Mr Walker said: "I was quite calm, I knew that he was off his head and wanted to hurt me and was thinking of a way out of the situation. But when it was all over I was shaking."

The Trust sued the man for damage to the ambulance and Mr Walker was also awarded around £150 compensation for what he had been through.

Three of Mr Walker's colleagues usually wear stab vests while working he said.

"Sometimes if paramedics are doing something with the step or just opening the doors they will get a kick in the jaw," he added.

Mr Walker said out of the eight calls they take in an average 12 hour shift three are likely to be calls where there is some form of physical or verbal abuse.

Paramedics are not automatically given self defence lessons and it is something that he would like to see introduced.

Today Matthew Ware, spokesman for the Trust said that people who attacked their staff would be prosecuted.

He said: "These figures are a sad indictment of how some people view our emergency medical staff.

"Our staff are there to help people and the last thing they need is to be confronted by the type of violent aggression that they come across on a far more regular basis than is acceptable.

"People must realise that if they are violent towards our paramedics their card will be marked on our computer system and we will work with the police to bring successful prosecutions."

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