Paramedics under attack from drunks

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, and Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, and Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive.

Nearly half of north east paramedics have been subjected to alcohol-fuelled physical assaults while on duty, a survey has revealed.

The repory by north east alcohol office Balance also reveals that two in five paramedics surveyed had been sexually assaulted or harassed by people who had drunk too much.

Balance joined with the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) to carry out a survey of more than 350 paramedics.

The report also revealed more than 90 per cent felt dealing with alcohol-related callouts placed an unnecessary burden on their time and resources while two-third felt at risk of physical assault when working in the night time economy.

Yvonne Ormston, NEAS chief executive, said: “Our crews don’t just deal with drunk weekend revellers; our crews see the effects of alcohol at all times of the day and all times of the week, spread across our region and from patients of all ages and backgrounds.

“For our staff, this is more than a job. But alcohol related calls take up far too much of our time and are often an abuse of our service, taking our resources away from patients who need us most.”

“Intoxicated patients take much longer to triage on the phone and are more likely to be aggressive, placing staff in potential danger and increasing their stress levels.

“We take a zero tolerance approach to assault and support staff every step of the way if they have been abused. All staff also have access to a counselling service and a number of helplines to ensure their mental health is looked after as much as possible.

“We are pleased to be working with Balance to highlight the issues we face.”

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “It’s outrageous that paramedics don’t feel safe in their working environment as a result of other people’s alcohol misuse.

“These are people who are there to help us when we need it most, yet they are living in fear of physical and verbal abuse on a daily basis.

“It’s clear from this report that our paramedics are personally paying the price for the alcohol misuse of others. This is an unnecessary burden on time and resource and it is completely unsustainable.

“Our relationship with alcohol is out of control. We need to bring it under control by making alcohol less affordable, available and less widely promoted.

“We need the Government to support a range of targeted, evidence-based measures such as increasing the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol products, which has been shown to save lives, reduce hospital admissions, cut crime and lessen the financial burden alcohol places on frontline services.”

An experienced female paramedic, who took part in the survey, said: “I’m regularly sworn at by patients, their friends or relatives. The fear of being assaulted or sustaining injuries is increased when dealing with intoxicated patients.”

A fellow colleague added: “The sexual harassment from males can get out of hand. I tend to ignore this so to not start any conflict but many a time I do say to stop or I’ll get the police.”