EDINBURGH is the most dangerous place for ambulance workers in Scotland, with 100 attacks recorded on paramedics in just three years.
The shocking figures released by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) showed that assaults on staff across Scotland had risen by more than a third, with alcohol reported to be a “key factor” in the majority of cases.
According to the figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the number of attacks on crews across Scotland rose from 228 in 2010 to 306 in 2012, with a total of 839 verbal and physical attacks recorded over the past three years.
As well as assaults involving weapons, paramedics were subjected to “pushing, punching and spitting” while attempting to aid the public.
The Lothian statistic is the equivalent of three attacks a month on one of the crews.
An SAS spokesman said: “Ambulance staff undertake a difficult and challenging job in often extreme situations.
“Increasingly they are subjected to verbal abuse from the public on an almost daily basis as they go about their job.
“Every year, ambulance crews report incidents of physical assault ranging from pushing and punching to spitting and attacks with weapons.
“In the majority of cases, alcohol is a key factor in the incident.”
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive at Alcohol Focus Scotland, called for tighter regulations on the pricing of alcohol in wake of the figures.
She said: “This is yet more evidence of the negative impact that excessive drinking is having on our front-line services. This increase in the number of attacks on ambulance crews reminds us that when it comes to alcohol-related harm, this goes far beyond the individual drinker. Statistics such as these add to the reasons why there should be tighter regulations on cheap alcohol and its availability.”
Dr Jonathan Chick, an alcohol expert and honorary professor at Queen Margaret University, described the figures as “shameful”.
He said: “Despite an overall drop in the affordability of alcohol, very cheap alcohol is still purchased at supermarkets and independent shops. Our studies of the purchasing habits of very heavy drinkers show that this fuels problems, both to the drinkers and to others.”
The penalty for attacking a member of the emergency services is a £10,000 fine, up to 12 months in prison, or both.
Union officials have called for thugs to be punished.
David Forbes, regional organiser for Unison, said: “Attacks on ambulance workers are completely unacceptable. The health and safety of our crews must be paramount.”