Why do we hear so many stories about our emergency services getting attacked when they arrive at a scene? It is not just the ambulance service that experience high levels of violence and abuse. Mental Health staff and nurses and doctors in A&E departments are also at an increased risk of being both verbally and physically abused.
Much of the problem is that there are those patients who are under the influence of drink or drugs, they are extremely stressed and possibly confused so the likelihood is that they are going to lash out. Many of these individuals may have been victims of violence themselves. It’s no justification but it might explain why it occurs. These patients are not rational, they see a uniform and have an instant negative reaction towards authority. This is one of the reasons why the paramedics uniform was altered to look less like the police.
Paramedics could start routinely wearing a Body Worn Camera to tackle rising assaults. For more information, visit http://www.pinnacleresponse.com/body-cameras-and-the-law/. South East Coast Ambulance Service has data that shows attacks rose yearly from 98 in 2012 to 184 in 2015-16. Unions have called for the government to do something to tackle this problem. One female paramedic recently had her jaw broken when kicked in the head. NHS Protect have been analysing data to try to figure out what the aggravating factors are. They have been looking at the times of day these incidents are most likely to occur and the demographics of the people who attack. In the five years between 2010 and 2015, a sample of 2,479 incidents showed that 1,184 of them had one or more of these aggravating factors and of those nearly a quarter were attributed to being on illegal drugs and a whopping 72.2% were down to being intoxicated.
The figures involved could be the tip of the iceberg as some paramedics don’t want to report attacks as it may mean taking that ambulance of the road. The London Ambulance Service is also reporting a rise in attacks by members of the public. One example includes a medic responding to a patient next to a busy road when he was abused by a passer-by about his parking. Experts put the blame on alcohol abuse, mental health problems and NHS cuts for a surge of 47% in attacks. It is estimated that 6 serious attacks happen every day around Britain, on members of our ambulance services.
Paramedics can easily suffer burn-out which results in a high staff turnover with new recruits thrown in at the deep end and maybe not appreciating when they need to call for police back-up. Only 17% of incidents resulted in a police caution or court punishment. It’s about time our paramedics were wearing cameras and maybe even body armour. One paramedic has spoken of quitting the job after he was left hospitalised. In his 12 years on the job, he was threatened with a knife 7 times and twice with a gun. There used to be a place where paramedics could go at the end of a difficult shift and talk things through but due to cuts, this isn’t available anymore.