Scottish ambulance staff face 460 attacks in less than four years

Scottish Ambulance Service staff have been subjected to 460 verbal and physical assaults since the beginning of 2015, according to figures.

Of the recorded assaults, 372 were physical and 88 verbal. Picture: John Devlin

Of the assaults recorded, 372 were physical and 88 were verbal (including spitting).

The number of assaults does, however, appear on course to be lower this year than in 2017 – 40 assaults have been reported so far in 2018, down from the 141 over the course of the previous year.

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The FOI request, made by the Scottish Conservatives, also indicated there are over 2,500 addresses in Scotland currently “red flagged” – meaning ambulance staff cannot enter without a police presence.

A violence at work survey conducted by Unison Scotland reported there were 18,225 assaults on NHS workers in 2018.

The Emergency Workers Act enables penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both to be imposed following conviction for offences against ambulance staff.

The Scottish Government extended the legislation in 2008 to include health professionals working in the community.

For more serious attacks, other offences such as assault can be used, which mean offenders can face penalties up to life imprisonment.

Liam Kerr, Tory shadow justice secretary, said: “Our emergency services constantly help people and save lives in difficult circumstances, often risking their own safety for others.

“It is disgraceful that anyone would assault them, physically or verbally, as they try to help others.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Attacks against our ambulance staff are despicable and the perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. 
“No-one should be the victim of abuse or violence while at work. We continue to encourage all NHS organisations to support criminal proceedings against anyone who assaults our staff.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Our staff should not have to fear for their safety when treating patients and keeping them safe is of paramount importance.

“That is why we have introduced a range of measures to help protect them – individual addresses where staff have previously faced violence or threatening behaviour are automatically flagged to our crews, who can then request additional support.”