| 10.1°C Belfast

Assaults on NI ambulance staff increase to 44 in a month as coronavirus lockdown eases

Close

Assaults on Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) staff soared to 44 incidents last month after dropping significantly during the March and April lockdown. (Cpl Anil Gurung/MoD/PA)

Assaults on Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) staff soared to 44 incidents last month after dropping significantly during the March and April lockdown. (Cpl Anil Gurung/MoD/PA)

Assaults on Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) staff soared to 44 incidents last month after dropping significantly during the March and April lockdown. (Cpl Anil Gurung/MoD/PA)

Assaults on Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) staff soared to 44 incidents last month after dropping significantly during the March and April lockdown.

Five of these assaults happened on May 30 alone.

As a result of the Covid-19 restrictions on movement, ambulance crews had been at a lesser risk of assault in public places - but since the easing of the regulations, physical and verbal attacks have surged.

It was revealed by the NIAS last night that 44 assaults were carried out on its staff in May - with almost half of these occurring in the final week of the month.

Some of the incidents involved patients spitting at NIAS crews, urinating over equipment and telling staff that they had coronavirus and intended to pass it on to them.

In the period between May 29 and June 7, 35 incidents of verbal or physical assaults were reported and involved 42 members of NIAS staff.

Health Minister Robin Swann said he was "appalled" by the assaults and that his thoughts were with the victims.

"Ambulance staff have put themselves on the line for the rest of us time and time again during the Covid-19 pandemic," he stated.

"We owe a massive debt of gratitude to them and to all their colleagues across the health and social care frontline.

"It is beyond belief that they should be on the receiving of this kind of thuggery."

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the NIAS, Michael Bloomfield, stated that he was "greatly concerned" at the rise in the number of physical and verbal assaults on his staff.

"These attacks occur too frequently and they are totally unacceptable to our staff, us and society in general," said Mr Bloomfield.

"Ambulance Service staff provide an essential service to the whole community.

"This is a difficult role at all times, but particularly so during the past few months dealing with the challenges and risks associated with Covid-19.

"For our staff to face the added fear of assault - physical and verbal - when they are trying to provide the best possible care and treatment is disgraceful and I call on all those with influence to condemn it."

He added that he has no hesitation in calling for those responsible for the attacks to face the courts and be punished for their actions.

"These attacks can have a lasting emotional and psychological impact on our staff when physical wounds may have healed much quicker," continued Mr Bloomfield.

"Our staff deserve better and we will continue to support them through measures available to us, including immediate management and peer support which will continue for as long as necessary.

"The impact of these attacks go far beyond the staff directly affected. They often result in our levels of cover being reduced as staff are unable to continue with their duties.

"Affected areas may be left vulnerable due to longer response times as crews attend from neighbouring stations.

"This could have potentially fatal consequences for those who urgently need of our service.

"Our message is quite simply that these attacks must stop and that those who continue to assault our staff must become accountable to the full rigour of the law."

Belfast Telegraph