250 incidents of threats, assaults, alleged assaults or verbal abuse against ambulance staff during pandemic
- Credit: Archant
Some staff in the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) have been subject to violence and abuse that has increased their risk of contracting Covid-19.
Information provided in response to a Freedom of Information request shows there were 250 incidents of threats, assaults, alleged assaults or verbal abuse in the period between March 1 and June 11.
The ambulance service said 14 incidents of violence and aggression against staff were recorded “where Covid-19 was mentioned as a factor”.
“There were four incidents in March, seven incidents in April and three incidents in May. Examples of incidents are crew being spat at, crew being threatened and asked to hand over face masks/PPE, patients coughing in the face of crew members etc,” EEAST said.
The ambulance service said the stress and anxiety caused to staff in such incidents “cannot be underestimated”.
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The chief executive of EEAST, Dorothy Hosein, said: “It is totally unacceptable to abuse ambulance crews and call-handlers, who are there to help when people are most in need.
“We have a zero tolerance approach to any form of violence or aggression towards any of our staff. When incidents do happen, we work closely with the police to see that justice is done and will always support the prosecution of anyone who chooses to abuse.
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“We have provided our staff with full PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic to minimise any risks to their physical health. However, the anxiety and stress which is caused by incidents where Covid is mentioned as a factor cannot be underestimated. We would urge the public to remember that our staff are simply trying to do their job, and to treat them with the respect they deserve.
“We fully support any members of staff who have been abused as it can have a major impact on their wellbeing. We appreciate that we often deal with people under difficult circumstances, but would like to remind everyone that they have a choice. Don’t choose to abuse – the consequences can be serious.”
EEAST covers the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The area has a population estimated at just under six million people.