Ambulance staff forced to 'lock themselves inside' to escape abuse

The East of England Ambulance service are urging the public not to dial 999 to check when their ambulance will arrive

- Credit: Archant

Ambulance staff have been forced to lock themselves inside their vehicles to escape abusive patients, a meeting as heard, as body-worn cameras are rolled out to tackle rising reports of assaults.

This year, 334 cases of abuse have been reported by EEAST staff, including 95 incidents in July - three every day.

This included 33 cases of physical abuse and 62 verbal incidents and was an increase for the third month in a row. 

Members of the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) board said at a meeting on Wednesday that the numbers of assaults were "unacceptable", as they heard staff faced abuse due to rising delays to get to patients. 

Waveney becomes the first region to trial the bodycams this week, with EEAST securing NHS funding for up to three years. 

Paul Marshall, deputy chief operating officer, told the meeting; "For the two years pre-Covid, we saw 1,700 assaults on our staff, which is a lot. 

"When you hear stories and speak to the staff on the day. You hear about the staff locking themselves in the ambulance while someone is beating the hell of the outside of the ambulance trying to get to them while they wait for the police, that's terrifying. It's not acceptable."

In June, the NHS announced it will roll out cameras to ambulance crews following more than 3,500 assaults in a year. 

Wendy Thomas, a non-executive director, said: "The number of abuse cases that are reported here, that is shocking, we are working under such pressured conditions and the fact our staff have to deal with this level of abuse is just not acceptable." 

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Juliet Beal, interim director of nursing, said a third of complaints in July were due to delays. 

She said: "I do think we see more cases of violence and aggression when patients, who are also under a lot of pressure, are finding that they are having to wait longer, they are finding they are becoming increasingly distressed.

"We have to keep that in mind too."

At a health overview and scrutiny meeting last week, chief operating officer Marcus Bailey told councillors that in the space of 24 hours, there were six reports of verbal, physical or alleged sexual assault across the East of England. 

EEAST also wants to roll out a "don't choose to abuse" campaign while abusive callers will not have ambulances dispatched.

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