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Attacks on paramedics in Sussex on the rise
Attacks and threats against paramedics and other ambulance workers in Sussex are on the rise.
Crews have reported being punched and kicked as they try to do their job, leaving them with cuts, bruises and concussion.
Others have found themselves subjected to verbal abuse, aggression and intimidating behaviour from patients, relatives and sometimes passers-by.
Unions said they were aware of the increase in cases and believe the real number could be higher because not every incident is reported.
Unison regional representative for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Mary Laxton, said: “A significant number of incidents relate to drink and alcohol, particularly among younger people in town centre areas at the weekends.
“It also related to people who have mental health problems while others may be facing particular life problems like redundancies.
“Sometimes people can lash out and end up taking out their frustrations on the first person in uniform they see, even if that person is trying to help them.
“We work closely with our members and with the trust to ensure they get the training and support they need so they can deal with situations and make a judgement call on how they can be handled.
“We also provide support if there needs to be any legal action taken.”
Trust figures show there were 58 physical attacks reported by ambulance crews in Sussex between April 2011 and the end of March compared to 46 the year before.
Reports of verbal abuse and aggression also went up from 96 to 117.
The ambulance service said it took assaults against its staff very seriously and would always try to take action against those who intentionally attack its workers.
Local security manager for the trust, David Dixon, said the rise in numbers could also be down to the service dealing with more 999 calls.
He said: “While one assault is too many, incidents of violence against staff only make up 0.02% of the total responses we make each year.
“Since 2008, 131 incidents of violence, abuse or aggression have resulted in some form of sanction giving the trust one of the best prosecution success rates in the country.
“When compared to other ambulance trusts we are also below the national average for the rise in the number of assaults.
“However, the trust isn’t complacent and is very proactive in providing conflict management training to all its frontline staff on induction and annual refresher courses, which is more than the guidelines state we need to do. “The trust also assists in developing new national guidance, based on identified best practice, to ensure that wherever possible the risk to staff is minimised.”