North East backs calls to protect emergency workers from attack

Ambulance crews regularly face violence while working
Ambulance crews regularly face violence while working

Union chiefs and an alcohol charity have backed calls for tougher sentences on drunks who assault emergency workers.

The region’s alcohol organisation Balance, along with public sector union UNISON, have joined those backing a Private Members Bill in Parliment calling for more protection for emergency workers from assaults which are often fuelled by alcohol.

Colin Shevills

Colin Shevills

Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, will tomorrow introducing the bill in Parliament that would - for the first time - make assaults on emergency workers an aggravated offence.

In the North East, both police and paramedic surveys show there is a high rate of injury.

Figures from 2013 show that only 14% of police officers have never been assaulted in the line of duty and 21% have been attacked six or more times during their time in the force.

Police officers are also frequently victims of sexual assault in the line of duty - with 59% of female officers and 33% of male officers claiming to have suffered some form of sexual assault or harassment since they started their service.

Meanwhile figures from 2015 show that half of paramedics have been physically assaulted at some point while on duty and two out of five have at some point been sexually assaulted by drunken people whilst on duty.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Emergency workers are there to protect us but are regularly subjected to horrific violence and sexual assaults. Cheap alcohol is making this situation much worse.
“The time must come when we say enough is enough and give front line staff the protection they need.”

The Police Federation estimates a police officer is assaulted every 13 seconds, and there were more than 70,000 recorded assaults on NHS staff in England and Wales in 2016.

Nationally, alcohol is costing £209 million in NHS and healthcare and £331 million in crime and disorder.

Marion Langley, branch secretary of UNISON South Tyneside Health Branch, said: “As UNISON Branch Secretary of South Tyneside Health Branch. We would want to see our members protected against all cases of assaults.

“They go to work to help the public not to be abused.

“All employers should have a robust Zero tolerance policy in place to protect their staff.”

Janet Green, branch secretary of UNISON South Tyneside, agreed, she said: “I feel that there should be more in place to protect all public workers.
“Everybody comes to work to do a job and the job these people do is exceptional.

“In no way should they tolerate this sort of behaviour. It is abuse and these services shouldn’t have to deal with it.”