Ambulance crews are putting themselves at risk every time they respond to a 999 call. With violence in the NHS predicted to increase, what are trusts doing to fight back? Paramedic Simon Spencer has been having weekly counselling sessions but he has still had problems sleeping since he was stabbed after responding to a 999 call.
Spencer, who has been a paramedic for 10 years, had to have 36 stitches following a knife attack a month ago at a flat in east London at 3am. He is still off work.
Such attacks are increasingly common according to a new survey by Health Service Report, which shows violent and aggressive incidents against health service staff increased by 22 per cent last year (News, 30 January).
Wendy Foers, director of human resources for the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said that on average there is an attack on a member of LAS staff every day.
She said, "We are increasingly concerned about the number of attacks on our crews. It can range from a push to something serious like the stabbing that happened to Simon.
"We encourage staff to report all incidents and there has been an increase in reports, but I do think there is also an increase in the number of incidents our staff are exposed to.
"We will be recruiting 400 staff next year and we want to be able to advertise without people thinking they may well be at risk."
London Ambulance Service is developing a number of measures to try to help protect staff. One of these is its No Excuse publicity campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the problem. It may also include teaching breakaway techniques, providing protective equipment such as stab vests and identifying addresses where there is a known risk of violence.
The ambulance service is also trying to forge closer links with the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure action is taken against people who attack paramedics.
The survey reveals that NHS trusts have responded to the increase in violence against its staff by introducing a variety of measures to combat the rising level of violence and aggression.
Four-fifths of those surveyed have installed CCTV, nearly three-quarters now employ sec