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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 11:07 GMT
Paramedics' body armour discussed
Ambulance generic
Emergency workers suffer frequent attacks
Ambulance drivers and paramedics are meeting to discuss whether to call for crews to be issued with body armour.

At present, stab vests are given only to emergency staff working in London.

The Scottish secretary of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel (APAP) said staff in Scotland faced a growing threat.

Ian O'Friel said there were 115,000 assaults on ambulance staff in the UK in 2002/3 and he believed stab vests would give them greater protection.

The issue is being discussed at the APAP annual conference in the West Midlands on Friday.

I have been involved in attacks and was chased from a house one day in the course of my duty with a rifle
Ian O'Friel
APAP

Mr O'Friel said alcohol and drugs motivated the majority of attacks on emergency workers, as users were not in full control of their faculties.

He said staff would not necessarily be more "gung-ho" when responding to emergencies if they were wearing body armour.

"I have been involved in attacks and was chased from a house one day in the course of my duty with a rifle and stab-proof vests wouldn't prevent that from happening," he said.

"Personally, I would like to have the choice of having a stab vest.

'Stabbed with stiletto'

"There are places we go into, pubs, clubs and parties where you feel a bit dodgy and you're wary about going in, but it's your job to help and serve the public."

Mr O'Friel said a colleague in London was responding to an emergency in a dance hall after a female had lost consciousness.

As the emergency worker was walking across the floor he felt a nudge on his back and thought someone had bumped into him.

Mr O'Friel said: "It wasn't until he got the patient into the vehicle, that his colleague asked him what the blood was on the back of his shirt.

"The guy had been stabbed with a stiletto. If he had had a stab vest on he wouldn't have received the injury."

Mr O'Friel accused ministers of prevaricating over the need for body armour, while emergency workers faced the threat of attacks.

London introduced the use of vests in 2002, a year after a paramedic was stabbed at a call out in the east of the city.


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