Nearly nine attacks on ambulance staff take place every week in Northern Ireland.
Exclusive figures obtained by Belfast Live through a Freedom of Information request show that Northern Ireland ambulance service staff have been sexually assaulted and attacked while on the job.
Paramedics and EMTs were attacked a total of 452 times in 2018/19 according to the new statistics making it one of the worst areas of the UK for ambulance work in terms of assaults and threats.
Of these 452 attacks, 171 were physical assaults and 102 physical threats. A further 12 were sexual assaults and there were 167 times staff were verbally abused.
The number of assaults has actually fallen compared to 2017/18, when there were 482 assaults.
On one occasion, in Banbridge, a man threatened a staff member with a six inch knife.
The staff member said in the report that the situation “was not suitable for a lone worker and I felt stressed and annoyed at how close this was to my face”.
“I was covered in blood on my clothes which I only realised afterwards and strained my right wrist and twisted my back trying to leave the property quickly,” they added.
A member of ambulance staff was assaulted every 90 minutes last year across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There were at least 5,855 recorded assaults in 2018/19, including physical and non-physical assaults.
This is an increase compared to 2017/18 when there were at least 5,192 assaults.
In some cases ambulance staff were attacked with knives and clubs – and there were at least 71 sexual assaults.
Ambulance staff in London were assaulted 698 times, North West staff were assaulted 363 times, South Central ambulance staff 198 times and West Midlands staff 1,066 times.
South Western ambulance staff were assaulted 614 times and North East ambulance service staff 535 times. East of England and East Midlands ambulance service staff were assaulted 1,295 and 896 times respectively while in Scotland there were 269 assaults.
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s horrific that ambulance workers face increasing abuse and violence in the line of duty. This should never be part of the job.
“These assaults can cause long-term physical and mental harm. Courts must take advantage of new laws and give attackers stiffer jail terms. Employers and the government also must do more to prevent assaults and protect staff.”
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