Ambulance staff have been bitten, stabbed and spat at, with six physical assaults on West Midlands Ambulance Service staff reported every week.
There have been 1,597 violent attacks on ambulance workers in the West Midlands since 2012, a major investigation by GMB, the union for ambulance workers, has revealed.
And 325 of these took place in the 12 months between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018. That’s slightly more than six every week, on average.
Examples of violent attacks reported by GMB members include being bitten, stabbed, having blood spat at them by intravenous drug users, having bones broken, attempts to hit them with cars, and racist and sexual abuse.
The union revealed the shocking figures ahead of a crunch vote by MPs on tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers.
GMB carried out a Freedom of Information survey of employers after national reporting of physical assaults was ended when a body called NHS Protect was abolished last year.
It found 72 per cent of ambulance workers have been attacked while on duty, and 94 per cent were aware of attacks on their colleagues.
'I was bitten by a patient'
In a recent incident, a paramedic was treated for his injuries after being bitten by a patient - raising questions over whether 999 crews should be armed.
The issue of whether mercy crews should be handed protective spray or "defensive weapons" arose after David Lynch, who has worked for West Midlands Ambulance Service for nine years, was attacked at a Staffordshire hospital.
It happened hours before paramedics were confronted by a woman who gave them a volley of abuse and left a vile note demanding they moved their ambulance during a 999 call.
Mr Lynch told how the man 'presented himself at hospital' before lashing out at staff.
'I couldn’t give a s**t if the whole street collapses'
Just hours after the incident where the paradmedic was bitten, West Midlands paramedics answering a 999 call were stunned to receive an angry note demanding they move their ambulance.
A neighbour was said to have be enraged after crews blocked her street in Stoke-on-Trent.
She ordered them to move their ambulance – and left a note saying: “I don’t give a s**t if the whole street collapses”.
Kirsty Sharman was ordered to pay a £285 fine, at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, on February 20.
Assault over parking
A West Midlands Ambulance Service paramedic recently alleged an assault on a Birmingham street in a row about where an ambulance was parked.
The incident related to parallel parking, according to a paramedic on Twitter.
She was first responder to a 999 emergency in Sparkhill to tend to a woman with chest pain when he was attacked.
However, after braving the snow and freezing conditions, the unnamed paramedic was injured and crewmate, Tasha Starkey, said she was threatened and verbally abused.
Tasha, of West Midlands Ambulance Service tweeted about the ordeal.
She wrote: "We haven’t had a good morning unfortunately myself and my crewmate were threatened, verbally abused... my crewmate was assaulted."
What the GMB survey said
The union’s survey of over 500 ambulance staff across the UK found that:
21 per cent of ambulance staff had to take sick leave due to violent assaults
37 per cent have considered leaving their job due to the threat of violence
Almost half (48 per cent) said the support offered by their employer was ‘inadequate’
Reports of violent assaults against health workers to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) increased by 20 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the investigation found.
To be reported to the HSE, an attack must result in seven days or more off work, or a “specified” injury which can include fractures, amputation, loss of sight, brain damage, loss of consciousness and asphyxiation.
GMB is backing proposed new legislation that would introduce a new offence of common assault against an emergency worker and require courts to treat attacks on emergency workers as an aggravating factor for sentencing purpose.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill 2017-19 is due to be debated on Friday, April 27.
However, sexual assaults are not currently covered by the Bill. GMB’s investigation revealed that reported sexual assaults and other sexually abusive incidents nationwide increased by 211 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17.
Kevin Brandstatter, GMB NHS National Officer, said: “No one should be told that facing violence is just ‘part of the job’. The number of attacks faced by ambulance workers as they try to save lives is beyond unacceptable.
“Our members do their jobs with complete professionalism - but everyone has their breaking point.
“As lone working becomes more common and cuts to services bite, ambulance workers are increasingly vulnerable to violence in the line of duty.
“Changing the law will be an important first step as current sentences aren’t providing an adequate deterrent.
“MPs must back emergency workers by backing this crucial legislation on Friday and widening its scope to include sexual assaults.
“The best laws will only be effective if they are enforced. Ambulance workers are there we when the public need them – and now they need us all to stand up for them.”