Unions condemn ‘despicable’ attacks on emergency services

There were 21 physical and verbal attacks on paramedics in the city of Edinburgh over the last two years. Picture: John Devlin
There were 21 physical and verbal attacks on paramedics in the city of Edinburgh over the last two years. Picture: John Devlin
Have your say

VILE attacks are being launched against life-saving ambulance workers across the Lothians, figures obtained by the Evening News reveal.

Ambulance crews were spat at, punched and kicked, while others were threatened with bottles and knives over the last two years. Both Scottish Ambulance Service bosses and unions condemned the despicable and “totally unacceptable” attacks.

Unison Scottish health committee chair, Tam Waterson, said: “Any attacks on public sector workers, mostly in the caring professions, are completely unacceptable.

“We’d ask employers and the courts to deal with offenders in the harshest way possible.”

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws show 34 verbal or physical attacks against ambulance crews since 2015 – at a rate of more than one a month.

There were 21 attacks in the Capital – the most across the south east of Scotland.

Attacks in the city included 15 which were classed as “common law intent” where paramedics were spat at, punched or kicked.

A further two physical attacks were described as “indirect assault” which includes being intentionally hit by a door.

Paramedics reported being verbally abused four times in the Capital over the two-year period.

There were four physical assaults in Livingston, including one where a paramedic was threatened with a knife or bottle and one struck by a patient having a fit.

Ambulance crews responding to calls in Livingston were also had verbal abuse hurled at them four times.

There were also two physical assaults and a verbal assault in Dalkeith and two verbal assaults in Prestonpans.

Figures for south east Scotland also revealed attacks in Chirnside, Hawick, Kelso, Linlithgow and Melrose.

Mr Waterson called for greater protection for paramedics from bosses and the criminal justice system.

“Part of the problem is that a number of attacks aren’t reported or followed-up by employers or police.

“The courts, employers and police need to take these attacks seriously.”

But bosses assured safety of crews is a priority and the service has protocol in place for dangerous scenarios as well as training for paramedics.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “Assaults of any kind on ambulance staff are totally unacceptable.

“Our frontline teams deserve respect for the difficult and challenging job they do, delivering care 24/7, often in extreme situations.

“The safety of ambulance staff is paramount and the Service has a number of measures in place to protect staff.

“All crews are given training in management of aggression and how to undertake a full risk assessment on arrival at scene to establish if there is any potential danger.

“If any ambulance crews feel that their safety may be compromised, they are instructed to hold nearby the scene and await support from the police, or additional ambulance teams.”