Third of emergency service staff victims of drunken violence

Drunken attacks on emergency services staff are no longer a weekend phenomenon'. Picture: Greg Macvean
Drunken attacks on emergency services staff are no longer a weekend phenomenon'. Picture: Greg Macvean
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One in three emergency service workers has been subjected to physical abuse while responding to an alcohol-related incident, according to a survey.

A poll of nearly 2,000 police officers, paramedics and firefighters found that alcohol was a contributory factor in around half of emergency incidents, with anti-social drunkenness no longer a “weekend phenomenon”.

The survey found two-thirds of workers have endured verbal abuse due to alcohol misuse in the past four weeks.

According to the report, emergency workers have been punched, threatened and spat at in recent weeks, while others have struggled to secure urgent information due to drunkenness. The emergency services said they were uniting with “one strong and unequivocal voice” to demand that attacks on its staff cease.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams of Police Scotland said: “The findings of this survey are as stark as they are unacceptable.

“Over a four-week period, 36 per cent of police officers were physically abused and 75 per cent were verbally abused as a result of individuals who chose to misuse alcohol. Let’s be clear – this behaviour is having an impact on the capacity of all the emergency services.”

He continued: “There is an impact from drinking too much alcohol and I really hope that people take some time to consider and reflect on these findings.”

The survey includes details of a firefighter punched in the face as he tried to rescue a drunk man from a house fire.

One paramedic said he had been assaulted, spat at and verbally abused “too many times to mention”.

Daren Mochrie, director of service delivery for the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Alcohol has a significant impact on ambulance operations. Crews are responding to alcohol-related incidents every day of the week and at all times – it is no longer a weekend phenomenon.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, gave the charity’s backing to the campaign.

She said: “Our emergency services have to spend far too much time and resources dealing with the illness, injuries, disorder and violence caused by excessive drinking, often at risk to themselves.

“Reducing our overall alcohol consumption, with particular targeting of high-risk groups, will help ease the pressure on our police, fire and ambulance staff.

“But encouraging people to drink less is difficult when we are surrounded by cheap alcohol that is constantly promoted as an everyday product.”