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Editor's Viewpoint

NI ambulance staff deserve protection, as 600 staff took time off in three years due to work-related stress

Editor's Viewpoint


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People will find it shocking that over 600 ambulance service staff have had to take time off  in the last three years due to work to work-related stress

People will find it shocking that over 600 ambulance service staff have had to take time off  in the last three years due to work to work-related stress

People will find it shocking that over 600 ambulance service staff have had to take time off  in the last three years due to work to work-related stress

People will find it shocking that over 600 ambulance service staff have had to take time off in the last three years due to work-related stress.

The highest number of absences at 267 was recorded in the year 2018-19 because of stress, anxiety and depression, and this was a rise from the 215 recorded in 2017-18, and 193 during the previous year.

The ambulance service staff are the very definition of "front-line workers", as in very many cases they are the first responders at major incidents and also involved in the emotionally-demanding cases of death and serious injury.

Yet in addition to the built-in stress that comes with the role of doing such a crucial and demanding job, there is also the stress which is associated with the shameful attacks on ambulance staff by some members of the public.

Last month, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service revealed that these attacks on its staff soared to 44 incidents in May alone, after dropping significantly during the March and April lockdown. It seems that even the dangers of a lethal pandemic in our midst will not deter such people from such behaviour.

These incidents of abuse included members of the public spitting at ambulance crews, urinating over equipment and - incredibly - telling staff that they had coronavirus and intended to pass the disease on to them. That is truly reprehensible behaviour, and it is to be condemned by people from all backgrounds.

It is frankly appalling that even a miniscule minority of the public, who also stood with other well-behaved people on doorsteps applauding the frontline workers, should indulge in this anti-social behavior.

No doubt there are those who will try to excuse this vile conduct as being fuelled by drink or drugs, but that is no excuse at all. In the end those guilty of such crass behaviour have only themselves to blame. They deserve no sympathy whatever among the general public.

The staff of the ambulance service deserve our grateful thanks and our protection for putting themselves in harm's way on our account, and they do this day in and day out.

The people committing those heinous offences should be brought to court, named and shamed, and dealt with to the full extent of the law. There really must also be a more robust way of dealing with instances of these attacks on ambulance staff working for us all.

Belfast Telegraph