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Assaults on South West ambulance staff are on the rise

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THE number of assaults on ambulance staff in the South West is almost 10 per cent higher than last year.

More than 100 attacks have been reported between April and August – with five victims being forced to take a total of 99 days sick leave as a result of incidents.

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In response, South Western Ambulance Service trust (SWAS) – which covers Somerset – has said it take a “zero-tolerance approach” to abuse of staff encourages incidents to be reported.

Dozens of reports of violence and aggression were recorded every month over the five-month period with 105 assaults also recorded – a rise from 96 last year.

Less than half way through 2018/19, there have only been 60 fewer attacks than the whole of 2017/18 and the number of sick days required has more than tripled from 32.

Two of the incidents have been reported to the Health and Safety Executive for investigation.

Each year, tens of thousands of emergency service staff are attacked nationally, prompting the doubling of maximum prison terms for people found guilty of common assault in a bill which comes into force in November.

A spokesman for the trust said: “South Western Ambulance Service takes a zero-tolerance approach to any form of abuse towards its staff, and all reports of violence and aggression are taken very seriously.

“Our staff play a vital role in serving the community by delivering high quality care to all patients and they should be able to fulfil their life-saving role without fear of abuse or assault.

“The trust has worked hard to encourage all incidents to be reported and supports all staff to take action against their assailants, although we recognise that very often staff do not want to take any further action against the perpetrator.”

It also has a helpline service through which staff can access to various support including specialist counselling and physiotherapy, the spokesman added.

“We continue our important work with the police and other partner agencies to seek the prosecution of assailants wherever possible,” he said.

Of the 105 assaults, 68 have been reported to the police with no action taken against the perpetrator in 14 instances.

The remaining 37 incidents were not referred to police and only recorded by the ambulance service for its information.

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