99.7% of attacks on South West Ambulance Staff don’t result in Prison Sentences 25 Apr 2018

A major investigation by GMB has revealed that just one custodial sentence was given out of the 294 reported physical assaults on Ambulance Staff between 2016/17 and 2017/18 in South West England

GMB, the union for Ambulance workers, is calling for the UK government to make changes to the law after seeing revealing figures that highlighted an unacceptably low prosecution rate.

The South West Ambulance Service provided GMB with a detailed breakdown of criminal outcomes. They recorded just one custodial sentence out of the 294 reported physical assaults between 2016/17 and 2017/18 (to the end of January 2018).

In all cases in the South West, fines did not exceed £440 and compensation to ambulance staff did not exceed £150. One worker was awarded just £50 compensation after their assailant pled guilty to assault by beating (battery). 

Examples of violent attacks reported by GMB members include: being bitten, stabbed, having blood spat at them by intravenous drug users, having bones broken, attempts to hit them with cars, and racist and sexual abuse.

The union revealed the shocking figures ahead of a crunch vote by MPs on tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers this week.

GMB carried out a Freedom of Information Act survey of employers after national reporting of physical assaults was ended when NHS Protect was abolished last year.

72 per cent of ambulance workers have been attacked while on duty, and almost all (94 per cent) were aware of attacks on their colleagues.

The union’s survey of over 500 ambulance staff across the UK found that:

  • 21 per cent of ambulance staff had to take sick leave due to violent assaults
  • 37 per cent have considered leaving their job due to the threat of violence
  • Almost half (48 per cent) said the support offered by their employer was ‘inadequate’

The number of violent attacks on ambulance workers in the UK increased by 34 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17, A total of 14,441 physical assaults were recorded against ambulance workers between 2012/13 and January 2018.

In 2016/17, recorded attacks on ambulance workers averaged more than eight every single day. 

GMB is supporting new legislation that faces its final House of Commons votes this Friday. The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill would introduce a new offence of common assault against an emergency worker and require courts to treat attacks on emergency workers as an aggravating factor for sentencing purpose.

However, sexual assaults are not currently covered by the Bill. GMB’s investigation reveals that reported sexual assaults and other sexually abusive incidents increased by 211 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17. 

Paul Gage, GMB South West NHS Regional Organiser said: 

“This prosecution rate In South West England is unacceptably low. And these numbers are only the assaults that have been reported

“What does kind of message does it send to our overstretched and overworked Ambulance staff that whether your kicked, beaten or assaulted in anyway there is a 99.7 % chance that the attacker will not see adequate justice”

 “As lone working becomes more common and cuts to services bite, ambulance workers are increasingly vulnerable to violence in the line of duty. Changing the law will be an important first step as current sentences aren’t providing an adequate deterrent.”

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB NHS National Officer, said: 

“No one should be told that facing violence is just ‘part of the job’. The number of attacks faced by ambulance workers as they try to save lives is beyond unacceptable. 

“Our members do their jobs with complete professionalism - but everyone has their breaking point.

 “MPs must back emergency workers by backing this crucial legislation on Friday and widening its scope to include sexual assaults.

“The best laws will only be effective if they are enforced. Ambulance workers are there we when the public need them – and now they need us all to stand up for them.”

You can join the GMB, Britain’s fastest growing Trade Union by clicking here. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.