Sunday, June 26, 2022

Violence against ambulance staff in England reaches record high

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Violence against ambulance staff in England has hit a record high as the NHS emergency care crisis deepens.

An estimated 12,626 incidents were reported in the 12 months ended April 2022, according to nationwide data shared with LatestPageNews – 7 percent more than in the previous year.

Since 2016, the number of paramedics who have been verbally or physically assaulted or threatened with physical harm has nearly doubled from 7,689.

Adam Hopper, the national director for ambulance violence prevention and reduction for the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), which provided the data, said the results “confirm the worrying trend of increasing violence against ambulance staff.”

A paramedic tells LatestPageNews A bone was broken in his neck after he was strangled by a drunk patient he was trying to treat.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, a trusts affiliate in England, said alcohol was the most important factor in such assaults, followed by drugs and people in a mental health crisis. “Race and sexuality have also been aggravating factors in these assaults, as have delays in treatment and arrival times,” he added.

Data from the London Ambulance Service (LAS) shows that up until June 15, an average of four of its paramedics were verbally or physically assaulted each day. The service, the busiest in the country, has begun rolling out the use of body cameras to deter violent patients.

Brian Jordan, Director of 999 Emergency Response Centers for LAS said: “Every day our staff and volunteers give their all for the people of London, working around the clock to provide care and save lives.

“But even though they come to work to help people in need, the sad reality is that they face very difficult and sometimes frightening circumstances.

“There is a minority of patients and members of the public who are acting hatefully or violently towards our staff and volunteers and this situation needs to change.”

AACE data provides a national breakdown of reported types of assaults. Alcohol-related incidents are up 37 percent since 2016, from 1,624 to 2,238.

Racist attacks have increased by 88 percent over the same period (from 144 a year to 272), while gun incidents have more than doubled – from 115 to 327 in the last six years.

A total of 9,940 incidents have so far been reported for 2021/2022 by eight of the ten English Ambulance Trusts.

Based on analysis of the overall rising trend in assaults, the remaining two trusts are expected to report an additional 2,686 cases of physical or violent incidents between themselves, bringing the statewide total to 12,626 — a new national record, Mr Hopper said, adding, that the number could be as high as 13,000.

Joel Blacker, a 29-year-old paramedic with LAS, said he was forced to take two months off after a drunk patient strangled him and fractured a bone in his neck while on duty in Camden.

He said he missed an important exam for a Fast Stream course and is now years behind in his career.

“I also found myself in many situations where it could have escalated, but people would look at my camera and then their behavior would change,” he said.

Before the choking incident, he added, he was almost stabbed when a mentally ill patient drew a knife on him. He said his colleagues are typically attacked one to three times a year.

When asked if he could explain the long-standing rise in violence against paramedics, he said there is often “a lot of frustration among patients,” many of whom resent delays. “But usually alcohol and drugs are involved and don’t help the situation at all,” Mr Blacker added.

In recent months, patients with serious and life-threatening injuries have reported waiting hours for an ambulance.

Analysis by the Nuffield Trust shows that in March 2022 it took an average of 61 minutes to respond to a Category 2 emergency call for patients in a serious condition – the worst monthly figure on record in the past two years.

The time it takes to respond to a Category 1 life-threatening call has also increased, with the average wait time exceeding the NHS’ seven-minute target since May 2021 and exceeding its target of nine minutes and 35 seconds in March 2022 peaked.

The delays come at a time of crisis in A&E. Last week, figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine showed that in 2021, an average of 1,047 people per day waited more than 12 hours in emergency departments.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, said at the recent NHS Confederation Expo in Liverpool that April 2022 was “the busiest ever for emergency services in terms of Category 1 calls and incidents and the second busiest for accidents and emergency departments”.

But notwithstanding the mounting pressure, swearing at and harassing staff remains unacceptable, say ambulance chiefs.

“No employee should be subjected to violence when showing up to help patients or families in an emergency,” said Mr. Hopper. “We all deserve to work without fear.”

NHS Providers, which represents trusts in England, said its members were “concerned at the current increase in incidents of violence against employees and this data shows that this is far too common. Violence and abuse can have a devastating impact on employee morale, physical and mental well-being.”

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