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Ambulance workers threatened with weapons and sexual violence

Sexual assaults on ambulance workers have almost trebled in five years, a Freedom of Information (FoI) by union GMB has revealed.

Since 2012 there have been at least 688 sexual assaults recorded.

In 2012-13 there were 53 recorded sexual assaults, and this figure soared to 165 in 2016-17 - the most recently available full year figures.

The news comes less than a week after Unison revealed that physical attacks on NHS staff had risen by almost 10% in a year.

On Friday 27 April, MPs will vote on the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Chris Bryant.

If the Bill is passed, most types of assaults on emergency service workers will automatically be treated as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

However, as it stands, sexual assaults will not be included in the proposed legislation; the union is demanding that this is changed.

Evidence given to the GMB by ambulance workers who have been sexually assaulted whilst carrying out their work reveals the shocking extent of the problem.

One member of staff said: “I have been sexually assaulted twice and been punched in the side of my face.”

Another reported experiencing physical violence, including biting, being threatened with a knife and a gun, and threats of sexual violence.

“I was the victim of a sustained incident which began with verbal and sexual abuse and harassment, my assailant indecently exposed himself, made lewd derogatory sexual remarks and gestures, grabbed hold of me and twisted my arm, also kicked out at me and again tried to grab hold of me,” said another.

The GMB and Chris Bryant have written to Rory Stewart, justice minister, to call on him to back an amendment to the Bill on Friday.

Additionally, the union is campaigning for risk flagging systems to be upgraded so that ambulance workers are always aware if they are called out to people with a known history of sexual violence.

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, called this violence towards staff as they work to save lives is “particularly sickening.”

“These figures show there is a national problem with disgusting attacks on emergency workers and it’s getting worse,” she added.

“The government could confront abusive and unacceptable behaviour with the stroke of a pen.

“Make no mistake: these are among the most horrific and harrowing cases emergency workers can and do face in the line of duty,” she continued.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said that the association would always encourage its members to prosecute anyone guilty of this type of attack to the “fullest extent of the law.”

“All attacks against staff who are trying to help and care for patients are abhorrent and must be stamped out by whatever means available within the boundaries of the law,” he added.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “We have a zero-tolerance policy to threats, abuse or violence to any NHS staff, including sex assaults on paramedics.

“This sort of behaviour from patients or members of the public will never be tolerated and should be reported to the police.”


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