AMBULANCE crews have suffered hundreds of assaults including attacks with weapons amid a sharp rise in abuse and dangerous situations over the past two years.
The number of attacks, physical and sexual abuse, entries into unsafe environments and incidents of threatening behaviour in the town rose from 203 in 2010 to 304 last year.
The total up to October this year suffered by staff at Great Western Ambulance Service stands at 181. Out of 688 incidents, about half took place in patients’ homes, 142 in public places and 84 in vehicles. Staff were attacked with weapons eight times between January 2010 and October this year, according to information provided by Great Western Ambulance Service under the Freedom of Information Act.
Crews were also subjected to aggressive behaviour 257 times, suffered 14 incidents of sexual abuse and four of racial abuse.
Staff in A & E were victims of 32 attacks or instances of aggressive physical or verbal behaviour.
A senior training manager and former paramedic, who asked not to be named, said: “A lot of new recruits have joined ambulance services straight after university, while a lot of us old hands have left.
“They haven’t quite got the experience to talk people down in certain situations.
“The job has always been dangerous, I have had a crew held up at gunpoint and there are also psychotics who are very difficult to reason with.
“We do teach conflict resolution but it comes down to experience and the way you talk to people.”
The Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust provides emergency and urgent care and patient transport services across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the former Avon.
A spokesman said the figures should be seen in the context of the number of emergency 999 incidents attended, which amounted to three quarters of a million over a similar timescale, plus around the same number of patients carried by its pre-arranged transport service.
He added: “While incidents of our staff being assaulted or abused are comparatively rare, even one such incident is totally unacceptable.
“Our staff are committed to looking after patients and it is intolerable that their wellbeing is put at risk while doing that. As a trust, we are committed to working with staff to reduce the number of such incidents and to ensure they are fully supported if they are subject to abuse or assault.”
Measures adopted by GWAS include training in conflict resolution to all frontline staff, encouraging them to pro-actively report incidents and welfare checks including support during any court proceedings.
If an incident takes place at a patient’s home, it is logged for the future so the crew can know the history before attending a 999 call at the same address.