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EDITIONS
Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 12:14 GMT
Beaten in the line of duty
Kathy Lines, in person and on the poster
Kathy Lines: Her black eye took four weeks to heal
The blackened eye of Kathy Lines stares out of posters condemning violent attacks on ambulance staff. She has been attacked three times while on duty. Here, she describes life on the front lines of health care.

One night last October I was punched and my two male colleagues were beaten up in front of me.

Ambulance Service poster
Kathy was photographed two weeks after the attack
We'd gone to a house in Forest Gate, east London, to attend a woman with a suspected heart attack.

After we'd assessed her - it was actually just shoulder pain - the daughter asked us which hospital we were going to.

We told her, and she said she didn't want to go to that one - she wanted to go to one further away. But we can't do that, we have to take the patient to the nearest hospital.

She then became verbally abusive: 'You're not taking us to that f****** s*** hospital.'

So the family decided to take her themselves, and my crewmate went to get a form for them to sign. And that's when they started to throw their hands about and get really abusive.

'Kicking and punching'

My colleague, Terry Spur, went to his car to call the police. Four men, who were members of the patient's family, grabbed the door as he leaned in and started banging it on his legs.


One of them lunged across and punched me right in the eye

I ran to the ambulance to call the police myself.

That's when I saw them drag Terry to the ground and start kicking and punching him. They were really laying into him, really going for it.

My crewmate was holding one off, so I went to try and help. That's when one of them lunged across and punched me right in the eye. He was the only young one - about 15 and quite a big lad.

Then the police turned up, and they all took off. Nobody was caught. The police have been back to the residence lots of times, but there's never anyone there.

Forewarned is forearmed

I felt so silly, because I just started crying as soon as I got in the ambulance that took me to hospital.

Kathy Lines
"The situation just suddenly exploded"
It wasn't so much what happened to me, it was seeing what they were doing to Terry.

Yet it wasn't a call where you'd expect something like that to happen.

Generally, you can tell and you can get the police go in before you - such as an assault where the assailant may still be on the scene, or the person making the 999 call is abusive to the controller.

But we didn't get that feeling about this call, even when we were in the house talking to the family. It just suddenly exploded.

I've been attacked twice before, but both times it was just a kicking from someone on drugs.

My black eye took about four weeks to clear up - I couldn't even open my eye for the first two days.

I've only just returned to work after three months off, during which I had to have counselling.

I've only been on day shifts so far, acting as an observer to get me back into it, but next week I start back with my crewmate.

Flat out

I've been with the ambulance service for just over eight years now.

Ringing 999
Ambulance call-outs up 50% in the past eight years
There's a lot more pressure, a lot more call-outs, compared with when I started.

The workload has definitely gone up. We can go out at 7am and stay out on calls until 7pm, whereas a few years ago, you'd be able to come back to the station and talk to your colleagues if you'd had a bad job.

But I thoroughly enjoy the job. I wouldn't have come back to work if I didn't. But if I get attacked again, I don't know...


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29 Jan 01 | Health
03 Oct 00 | Health
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