There are over 400 assaults on staff from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) each year – more than one a day.
NIAS has a zero tolerance policy in relation to these assaults. Our staff should not be subject to such behaviour, especially while they are providing care to patients. The vast majority of these incidents are not reported in the media, but that does not make them any less concerning. All assaults on ambulance staff are totally unacceptable and result in a reduction in cover to respond to calls from people who depend on our service.
This past weekend saw a number of particularly serious assaults on our staff. On 19 and 20 May three instances occurred, two of which involved staff requiring hospital attention. In one of these, a member of our frontline staff who has given over 40 years service to the community sustained injuries to his head, arms and body when attacked outside a hospital emergency department. His assailant was restrained by hospital security staff until the PSNI arrived. This is now an ongoing investigation.
However it is not only our frontline staff who are abused. On Friday night, two EMDs and a Duty Control Manager experienced serious and unacceptable verbal abuse over three phone calls. Further action may be taken in these cases.
NIAS continues to work with Trade Unions and staff to ensure the appropriate levels of post incident care are provided to our staff who are victims of such abuse.
Commenting on these incidents, NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, said:
“I am deeply concerned about the frequency and level of ongoing abuse and assaults towards our highly committed and professional staff. A survey published last week by the Department of Health in which almost 7000 patients commented on their experience from arriving at hospital until they left, showed that 98% of patients said that ambulance staff behaved in a polite and courteous manner, and the same number (98%) said ambulance staff showed them care and compassion. The vast majority of patients value our staff for the excellent work they do, however regrettably a small number do not show them the same level of courtesy. This is unacceptable and NIAS believe that anyone found guilty of attacks on our staff should face the full rigour of the law.
I wish our staff who were injured in these incidents a full and speedy recovery.
Ambulance staff work in a very challenging environment, and respond with professionalism to every call they are sent to, providing a high level of care to people at some of their most distressing and vulnerable times. Unfortunately when incidents such as these occur, the level of ambulance cover is reduced and patients who need our service may wait longer, sometimes for life threatening treatment. I therefore call on the public’s support and that of public representatives in helping us bring these assaults to an end.”