Stab vests could be given to paramedics

PARAMEDICS in Suffolk could be given stab or bullet proof vests to protect them against violence, it emerged today.The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) is currently reviewing the need for vests in the area and investigating if they would make its staff safer.

PARAMEDICS in Suffolk could be given stab or bullet proof vests to protect them against violence, it emerged today.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) is currently reviewing the need for vests in the area and investigating if they would make its staff safer.

The news of the ongoing review emerged after the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel (APAP) called for all ambulance trusts to issue body armour to staff.

It said rising knife and gun crime was increasing the risk of serious injury to the medics who respond to emergency calls.

Between April 2006 and March 2007 there were 56 physical assaults of EEAS's staff in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Paul Henry, associate director of production for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “The welfare and safety of our staff is a high priority and we are continuing to review whether stab or bullet proof vests will provide the necessary protection, or whether there are other measures which would be of equal value.

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“There are a number of considerations to be taken into account, including when and where vests would be worn, how easily they could be cleaned to comply with infection control standards, and whether staff wearing vests would be able to deal with patients without being compromised by equipment which affects their posture and ease of movement.

“Our health and safety advisors will carry out a full risk assessment regarding the use of stab vests, calling on the experience of our Essex locality where they have been in use for a couple of years.

“The last thing we want to do is give staff a false sense of security and it may be more appropriate to keep staff away from potentially dangerous situations until they are under the control of the police.”

Currently only trusts in London, Essex and Dorset issue staff with the stab vests.

Matt Whitticombe from the APAP said: "While many of our highly trained and dedicated staff at the cutting edge of the NHS face the threat of physical assault on a regular basis without this protection, our desk-bound administrators continue to prevaricate over the merits of body armour and so the dangers persist.

"Body armour is part of a package of safe systems, conflict resolution strategies and personal protective equipment necessary to ensure a safer working environment for those who dedicate their working lives to the care of others."

Should paramedics be issued with stab or bullet-proof vests? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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