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Ambulance workers subjected to at least 9,500 violent attacks in last five years, finds GMB investigation

AUSTERITY-HIT ambulance staff have been subjected to nearly 10,000 violent attacks while working in recent years, a GMB union investigation published today reveals.

Underpaid blue-light crews were bitten, head-butted, spat at and struck with weapons at least 9,565 times across Britain and Northern Ireland between 2017-18 and 2021-22, freedom of information requests show.

Workers across the Midlands were particularly badly affected, with 4,318 assaults recorded, the general union warned. 

The shocking research, which coincided with the opening day of GMB’s annual congress in Brighton, also shows 1,248 sexual assaults were recorded.

But the true number is likely to be far higher, as only eight of the 13 ambulance trusts nationwide responded to the union’s requests for data, it confirmed.

Ambulance worker Richard Harlington told delegates: “Workers deserve so much better than to be assaulted when they’re just trying to help the public.

“We deserve to be protected. We deserve for assaults to be properly prosecuted and we absolutely demand to be fully supported and treated with dignity [by employers].”

GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said: “Ambulance workers go to work every day to save lives.

“Despite this, thousands of them are bitten, attacked, spat at and even sexually assaulted.

“No-one should have to put up with that, least of all those who are there to protect us.”

She hailed her members for campaigning for the Assaults Against Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, which introduced a new offence of common assault against emergency staff and required courts to treat such attacks as an aggravating factor when sentencing. 

Sexual assaults were not initially covered by the legislation, but ministers changed course after a GMB investigation showed the number of such incidents being reported had sky-rocketed by 211 per cent between 2012 and 2017. 

“GMB members helped change the law — but more needs to be done,” Ms Harrison stressed.  

“We demand full enforcement of ‘protect the protectors’ legislation, investment in better systems to flag offenders and much better support for the victims of violence.”

A government spokesperson said: “Assaults on members of our emergency services are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  

“The government has doubled the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker and we are also working closely with NHS England as it takes action to prevent and reduce violence against staff.”


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