Survey reveals shocking physical and verbal abuse faced by the North East’s ambulance crews due to drunk patients

A survey of North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) crews has revealed the shocking impact alcohol abuse is having on staff and patient welfare.

The survey involved 150 front-line NEAS staff, many of whom described some of their harrowing experiences when simply trying to help people as part of their daily duties.

And it revealed a third of staff have been verbally or physically abused when on call-outs, with 46% of female employees claiming they have been victims of sexual abuse or harassment from intoxicated patients.

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One unnamed female crew member said: “I have been threatened, verbally assaulted and had to deal with degrading inappropriate sexual comments.

(left to right) Wayne McKay, clinical team leader at North East Ambulance Service, Stephen Segasby chief operating officer North East Ambulance Service, and Susan Taylor, head of alcohol policy at Balance.

"When dealing with people in licensed premises it’s often seen as a joke to people that their friend has become so intoxicated that an ambulance has been called.”

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As well as suffering personal abuse, the survey revealed the unnecessary drain on resources of patients involved in alcohol-related incidents and consumption, with 93 per cent of respondents saying dealing with intoxicated patients “wastes valuable capacity and places avoidable demand on time and resources”.

Alcohol-related violence is also highlighted as an issue, with 68% of ambulance crew members saying at least half of call-outs for domestic violence were related to alcohol and 75% of call-outs for assaults involving incidents in which alcohol had been consumed.

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Looking ahead to Christmas, staff are concerned about an escalation in incidents, with a third of crew members claiming most incidents they dealt with over previous festive periods have involved alcohol.

The survey was conducted by the North East alcohol misuse campaign group, Balance, on behalf of the NEAS.

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Susan Taylor, head of alcohol policy at Balance, said: “It is clear that NEAS employees feel that alcohol-related incidents have been increasing and this places a huge emotional and physical burden on them - both on and off duty.

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"While many will blame individuals who drink too much, we need to remember that alcohol can be an addiction, which some people are struggling with.

"Heavier drinking since the pandemic is spilling over into more incidents impacting on our emergency services.

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“It is wrong that people can buy a week’s worth of cheap strong alcohol for less than £5.”