86 homes unsafe for paramedics

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There are more than 80 addresses in the Lothians too unsafe for ambulance crews to attend without police protection, it has emerged.

The Lothian region has more “red-flagged” addresses – where ambulance workers must wait for police protection before entering – than any other part of the country except Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

In total, the Scottish Ambulance Service and police identified 86 Lothians addresses barred to paramedics without a police escort because of previous instances of physical and verbal assault.

The new figure marks a drop on 2010, when 118 residential properties were blacklisted, but political leaders said it remained at an unacceptable level.

The data was obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, whose justice spokesman David McLetchie said: “It is a disgraceful state of affairs when ambulance workers who dedicate their lives to helping people cannot enter so many homes for fear of their own safety.

“Every employee has the right to work without fear of attack. People who threaten, or worse attack, emergency staff should be dealt with in the severest possible way.”

Mr McLetchie called on the Scottish Government to act “immediately” on the figures.

He said: “At a time when budgets are pressed, we cannot afford to have ambulances waiting outside addresses because the occupants are too violent to deal with.”

David Forbes, the Unison union’s regional organiser, said serious physical assaults on ambulance workers were “fortunately rare” but added that crews were living under the constant threat of abuse.

He added: “What I am getting back from our workers in the Lothians is that there is a severe shortage of ambulance crews.

“We have a large number of trainees but not enough to fill the gaps. The kind of antisocial behaviour we are seeing only compounds the stress of an already very stressful job.

“Crews do not know what they are going into a lot of the time. You have people under a lot of pressure to get the job done, and when you have cretins who want to badmouth them or actually physically assault them, then it makes the situation exceptionally stressful.”

Margo MacDonald, independent Lothians MSP, said: “This figure makes me very angry. I would want to know who has been caught doing it. Is it younger kids or older people?

“If it’s younger people doing this, they should be punished with a loss of privilege or a fine, and sent to civic classes to learn how to treat others in society.”