Three ambulance service staff assaulted at weekend in Northern Ireland
A paramedic suffered injuries to his head, arms and body at the weekend in one of three serious attacks on Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) staff.
The man, who has worked for NIAS for more than 40 years, was assaulted outside a hospital emergency department.
His attacker was restrained by security staff until the PSNI arrived and is now subject to investigation.
Two out of three assaults on staff at the weekend required the victims to have hospital treatment. A spokesman for the NIAS said there are more than 400 assaults on staff each year - more than one a day.
In addition to the frontline workers coming under attack, there has also been a number of incidents recently where call handlers have faced verbal abuse.
On Friday night, two emergency medical dispatchers and a duty control manager experienced "serious and unacceptable verbal abuse" in three phone calls.
The Ambulance Service said further action may be taken in these cases. NIAS chief executive Michael Bloomfield said he was "deeply concerned about the frequency and level of ongoing abuse and assaults towards our highly committed and professional staff". He said: "A survey published last week by the Department of Health in which almost 7,000 patients commented on their experience from arriving at hospital until they left showed that 98% of patients said ambulance staff behaved in a polite and courteous manner, and the same number (98%) said ambulance staff showed them care and compassion.
"The vast majority of patients value our staff for the excellent work they do. However, regrettably a small number do not show them the same level of courtesy.
"This is unacceptable and NIAS believe that anyone found guilty of attacks on our staff should face the full rigour of the law.
"I wish our staff who were injured in these incidents a full and speedy recovery."
Mr Bloomfield added: "Ambulance staff work in a very challenging environment and respond with professionalism to every call they are sent to, providing a high level of care to people at some of their most distressing and vulnerable times.
"Unfortunately, when incidents such as these occur the level of ambulance cover is reduced and patients who need our service may wait longer, sometimes for life-threatening treatment. I therefore call on the public's support and that of public representatives in helping us bring these assaults to an end."
An NIAS spokesman added his condemnation and said the assaults were "totally unacceptable".
He said: "NIAS has a zero tolerance policy in relation to these assaults. Our staff should not be subject to such behaviour, especially while they are providing care to patients.
"The vast majority of these incidents are not reported in the media, but that does not make them any less concerning."