Concern over assaults on ambulance staff

Peter WalshAmbulance bosses have today told of their concern after it emerged there had been a 'significant' rise in the number of assaults on staff over the past year.Peter Walsh

Ambulance bosses have today told of their concern after it emerged there had been a 'significant' rise in the number of assaults on staff over the past year.

Startling figures revealed the number attacks on East of England Ambulance staff had risen from 96 in 2008/2009 to 110 in 2009/2010, including three assaults with a weapon.

The figures were made public at a trust board meeting which took place yesterdayat the Marriott Education and Conference Centre, at Hellesdon Hospital.

David Donegan, chief operating officer for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, said although the rise had been 'significant' the trust would continue to monitor the situation closely as there had been no 'discernable pattern' to the incidents.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Donegan, who admitted he was concerned by the rise in assaults, said the trust took a 'zero tolerance' approach to violence against its staff and wanted every incident to be reported.

He said: 'Any incident is a concern. We've been actively promoting staff to report any incident no matter how small. We're very keen to prompt people to report the incident to raise staff awareness of the reporting system so we can protect them and prosecute offenders.'

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A report which went before the board stated that the trust's health and safety committee believed the main reason for the increase could be put down to increased reporting by staff of instances where they had been physically assaulted.

Mr Donegan said: 'We will be monitoring closely to determine whether or not there are actual rises in assaults or whether it's improved reporting.'

But despite the rise in assaults on staff the trust yesterday refused to change its stance on providing stab vests for frontline staff working for the trust. During 2008/09 a decision was made by the trust not to replace stab vests in the Essex area and remove them after their shelf life expired, although it would monitor all instances of violence and aggression on a quarterly basis.

Mr Donegan said the trust would not be reverting from its current policy on stab vests. He said: 'The advice we've taken from the health and safety committee, and following our own risk assessment, is education is the best approach.'

He said that all new staff were given training in conflict resolution situations which was reviewed annually, when it was also made available to existing staff, and that all staff, including call takers, were required to undertake a dynamic risk assessment for each job which identified whether police support was necessary.

He added: 'It's about taking appropriate measures to protect our staff and what will be most effective. We believe prevention is far more important and more effective.'

Are you an ambulance worker who has been assaulted at work? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email