Half of paramedics suffer drunken attacks while working

Colin Shevills and Yvonne Ormston.
Colin Shevills and Yvonne Ormston.

Almost half of North East paramedics have been the victim of alcohol-fuelled assaults, according to new research released today.

North East alcohol office Balance and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) quizzed more than 350 paramedics and also discovered two in five had been sexually assaulted or harassed by drunken patients and members of the public.

It’s outrageous that paramedics don’t feel safe in their working environment as a result of other people’s alcohol misuse.

Colin Shevills

NEAS chief executive Yvonne Ormston 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”

Balance director Colin Shevills added: “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. How many of us would expect to work like this?

“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.”

The report also revealed:

•More than 90% of NEAS paramedics said alcohol-related calls placed an unnecessary burden on time and resources;

•Two-thirds said alcohol-related incidents accounted for at least half their workload during weekend evenings

•Nine out of ten have been threatened at least once, and almost half six or more times.

•In 2013/14 Balance estimated alcohol misuse cost the North East NHS £242million.