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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 November 2007, 04:51 GMT
Paramedics demand stab vests
Ambulance generic
Only certain crews are supplied with stab-proof vests
Paramedics are being put at risk because they are not being given stab vests, union leaders have warned.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said that ambulance staff can have stab vests if health trusts deem it necessary.

But the Department of Health has received no requests for funding for the body armour.

The Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel has been fighting for the vests to be given to all front-line crews for 10 years.

The APAP's Jonathan Fox said escalating crime was increasing the risk of serious injury to the paramedics who respond to casualties.

Ambulance crews across the country can have stab vests if it is decided they are necessary by their local NHS trust
Department of Health spokesperson

Currently only London, Essex and Dorset issue staff with the stab vests.

The APAP have written to all trusts informing them of the department's position.

Mr Fox, who is a practising paramedic said staff were at risk every day.

He cited his own experience of treating a violent drug addict who had suffered an overdose.

Although he had no weapons, the man was lashing out and kicking Mr Fox who was fortunately wearing his body armour, which had been issued by the London Ambulance Trust in 2003, protecting him from harm.

Mr Fox said: "Although the majority of public we serve are fine, there is a disproportionate minority of people that we attend who can turn violent and it's this risk we are trying to address by reviewing this initiative."

Violence

There were 1,006 physical assaults against ambulance staff in England for the year 2006/7, figures show.

Matt Whitticombe, APAP's North West regional secretary, said: "While many of our highly-trained and dedicated staff at the cutting edge of the NHS face the threat of physical assault on a regular basis without this protection, our desk-bound administrators continue to prevaricate over the merits of body armour and so the dangers persist.

"Body armour is part of a package of safe systems, conflict-resolution strategies and personal protective equipment necessary to ensure a safer working environment for those who dedicate their working lives to the care of others."

He said there was reluctance to provide the vests, which are tailor-made to fit each specific uniform, because of concerns they are cumbersome and would encourage paramedics to take risks.

"That is unsubstantiated by the research that's been done in police officers, which shows they do not take more risks and assaults against them go down."

He added that the vests were lightweight.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The government takes the safety of ambulance staff extremely seriously.

"Ambulance crews across the country can have stab vests if it is decided they are necessary by their local NHS trust.

"Any violence against NHS staff is unacceptable. That is why we have announced an extra 97m for security and measures that will make the NHS a safer place to work, including mobile alarms connected to control rooms."

SEE ALSO
Attacks against paramedics rise
08 Nov 07 |  England
Paramedics' body armour discussed
04 Nov 05 |  Scotland

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