Comment

12.12.18

An attack on them is an attack on us all

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 2018

Chris Bryant MP discusses the new law he championed that came into effect in September, which doubles jail time for anyone who assaults emergency workers.

Every job has its ‘moments,’ doesn’t it? Those things that ruin an otherwise fulfilling career, or even just make an otherwise tolerable Tuesday nearly unbearable. The difficult managers, the hard-to-work-with colleagues... Unfortunately it’s a feature of every job I’ve ever known, but when I started talking to emergency workers last year I was distressed to hear how many were increasingly regarding abuse and assault as just another one of these moments; another everyday occurrence to expect as part of the job.

So when I came top of the Private Members’ Bill ballot last year, guaranteeing me time on the floor of the House of Commons to try and get a Bill of my choosing to become law, I wanted to put something on the statute book that would help protect our emergency workers. In part, that’s just a practical matter. What sense is there in the fire service having to take police officers with them just so they can do their job in peace? And how crazy is it that there are postcodes where the ambulance service will not visit without a police escort?

It’s also a moral point, though. Yes, an assault on anyone is wrong, but emergency workers are only being attacked because they are emergency workers serving the rest of us. An attack on them is an attack on all of us, and we should use the full force of the law to bear down on this. Otherwise, lives will be lost – and eventually, from my conversations with emergency workers, if assault is seen as just part the job, then many simply won’t want to do the job anymore. 

Having talked to hundreds of emergency workers, they feel as if the courts and prosecuting authorities just don’t take attacks on them seriously. I’ve heard magistrates say: ‘Well, you’re in the police, you should expect a bit of rough and tumble.’ In my own patch in the Rhondda, I have been told of occasions when the CPS has refused to charge a patient after a vicious attack on a mental health nurse, even though there was no doubt that the attack had happened and two doctors had certified that the patient was perfectly aware of the difference been right and wrong and suffered from no cognitive impairment. And virtually every MP has an instance of a police officer or A&E worker suffering terrible injuries only to hear that the perpetrator has got off with a ludicrously minimal sentence which seems to make no acknowledgement that the victim was only doing their job.

So my Bill – which I consulted the public on through an online poll – will do two things: it will introduce a new offence of common assault on an emergency worker, which can attract a maximum sentence of 12 months. That means you could get 12 months for spitting at a police officer or a nurse. But the Bill also makes a series of other offences, including ABH, aggravated when committed against an emergency worker. That means the court will have to acknowledge in open court that the sentence is higher because the attack was on an emergency worker.

After some debate and persuasion with the government, I’m delighted to say that we have added sexual assault to the list of aggravated offences too. This is a crucial point because we’ve seen a vast increase in the number of sexual assaults on ambulance workers, nurses and doctors in particular, and it just wouldn’t make sense to try and prevent physical but not sexual harm from coming to them. 

Government ministers, after a bit of traditional ‘is this really necessary’ ministerial twaddle, eventually agreed to support the Bill and, just under a year since it started its passage in Parliament, put it on the statute book to become law.

The best possible outcome of this new law would be that prosecutions stop because the assaults stop when people realise they will not get away with it any longer. But while emergency workers continue to be assaulted, this law will mean significantly tougher sentences, and will send a clear message to the perpetrators that it is because they attacked an emergency worker that they face this penalty. 

The effects of assault can be devastating, and no one should ever feel it’s something that comes with the territory of their job. I’m proud that Parliament has sent a strong message to our frontline emergency workers that we respect and value the work you do, and stand by you to end the scourge of assaults. 

 

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Private mental health group The Priory fined £300,000 over death of 14-year-old girl

17/04/2019Private mental health group The Priory fined £300,000 over death of 14-year-old girl

Private mental health group The Priory healthcare group has been fined £300,000 for breaching health and safety laws following the death of... more >
Routine breech scans could lower mother and baby mortality rates and save NHS money, researchers say

17/04/2019Routine breech scans could lower mother and baby mortality rates and save NHS money, researchers say

Scanning mothers-to-be late in their pregnancy could prevent 15,000 unexpected breech births, 4,000 emergency C-sections, and the deaths of up to... more >
City council rejoins ICS after reforms agreed in privatisation and accountability row

17/04/2019City council rejoins ICS after reforms agreed in privatisation and accountability row

Nottingham City Council is to rejoin its local NHS integrated care system (ICS) after significant reforms were made to the way the system runs in... more >

681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Our Health Heroes

16/04/2019Our Health Heroes

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ discusses the upcoming Our Health Heroes Awards. There are many metaphors to describe staff working in healthcare. Junior doctors have been described as the ‘backbone’ of the NHS, nurses are often referred to as ‘angels’, general practitioners as the ‘bedrock’ of t... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus