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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
Ambulance crews facing violence
Patient being treated by a paramedic
Despite trying to help patients many crews face violence
Attacks on ambulance crews in south Wales by members of the public are more frequent than in the rest of Wales, according to official figures.

Crews working in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area had the worst number of attacks in the last year with 40 incidents.

Newport came second with 34 incidents of physical and verbal abuse.

A spokesman for the Welsh Ambulance Trust said the problem of violence against its staff was of "great concern".

In its annual statement, the trust revealed that during 2005-2006, there were a total of 290 incidents of physical and verbal aggression by the public to its crews.

Out of that figure, 123 incidents resulted in injury to the crew member.

The trust has said it has put in place a training system for its staff to deal with the threat of violence against them and says it operates a "zero tolerance policy towards such incidents".

Paramedics have said that the level of threat against them has led to a situation where one of the crew acts as a look-out while the other attends the patient.

Gino Matrella, a paramedic working in Newport, said the levels of threat against staff had increased in recent years.

"We have always had violence but never to this scale," he said.

"I've been a paramedic for 20 years and the violence seems to be a much more regular thing.

"It's very demoralising. You turn up at an incident to help someone and you don't know if you are going into situation where you are going to get assaulted.

"It's got to the point now with rapid response and triage vehicles where we have to make sure there is someone else in the vehicle in case they get attacked.

"I've had bottles and glasses thrown at the ambulance.

"The whole situation has become very emotive and you find yourself asking what are we doing this for.

"Just because we are in a uniform doesn't mean we have any authority, we are neutral and treat everyone the same," he added.

Training policy

A spokesman for the trust said: "Incidents of violence and abuse on ambulance staff are a matter of great concern for the trust.

"We have a zero tolerance policy towards such incidents, whether the violence and abuse is physical or verbal and all our staff are now equipped and trained to cope with conflict and in dealing with members of the public under stressful circumstances.

"The Ambulance Services NHS Trust believes that any attack, whether physical or verbal is unacceptable.

"Unfortunately, they do happen to our crews and to members of all the other emergency services and are an added burden which emergency service personnel can do without as they go about their job of helping the public."

He added that crews underwent conflict training to recognise how to deal with potentially difficult situations.




SEE ALSO
Ambulance crew attacked on call
05 Apr 05 |  South East Wales

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