A HEALTH chief has called for thugs who attack paramedics to be named and shamed after a sharp rise in the number of attacks being recorded.
The number of physical assaults on ambulance staff in East Lancashire has doubled in just three years according to new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information act.
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The statistics provided by the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) show an increase from 17 reported incidents involving paramedics and other grades of staff working within the Paramedic Emergency Service in 2012 to 35 in 2015.
Now County Councillor Azhar Ali, Lancashire’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, has called for the thugs found guilty of attacking paramedics to have their pictures shown on billboards in a bid to cut the number of incidents.
He said: “It’s totally unacceptable to assault anyone, particular the emergency services staff who provide such a brilliant service in difficult circumstances.
“We need to make sure the police prosecute people and that people understand there is a zero tolerance approach to abuse.
“I think we should be naming and shaming people.
“Police put up banners for people involved in sex assaults and drug deals. They take out billboards to say they have prosecuted these people and the same should apply to assaults on emergency service workers and particularly paramedics as these are people who are there to save lives.”
Ambulance chiefs made it clear there was a zero tolerance approach to assaults on staff.
Some properties have even been ‘flagged’ as addresses where ambulance staff could face aggression.
A NWAS spokesman said: “Our ambulance crews and call handlers work extremely hard to help people and save lives and it is disgraceful that so many of them are subject to unprovoked abuse and assaults.
“The trust takes a zero tolerance approach to any form of abuse and we will always support our staff to report any violence or aggression towards them.
“We encourage them to press charges to ensure appropriate action is taken against the perpetrator.
“Every member of staff plays a vital role in serving communities by helping to deliver the highest standards of care and staff should be able to fulfil their life-saving role without abuse or fear.
“Those who commit these acts should ask themselves if their parent, grandparent or child was waiting too long for an ambulance because an assault has taken a vehicle off the road, would they find that acceptable?”
During 2012 the trust recorded only one assault in Accrington, one in Altham, six in Blackburn, eight in Burnley and one in Clitheroe.
The following year the number of assaults in Accrington and Altham had doubled and the number of assaults in Blackburn had risen to 10.
In the same period one assault was recorded in Barnoldswick, one in Darwen, five in Nelson and two in Stacksteads.
During 2014 the figure for assaults in Blackburn remained at 10, there were three assaults in Accrington, five in Altham, four in Nelson and two recorded in Rossendale.
Last year (2015) the number of assaults in Blackburn had increased to 13, and the number of assaults in Accrington had risen to six.
There were three assaults in Altham, one assault in Clitheroe, two in Darwen, three in Nelson and two in Stacksteads.
In Burnley, the figure was five, down on the 2012 numbers but an increase from a low of three in 2013.
Pendle MP, Andrew Stephenson, who also volunteers as a community first responder, said: “It’s absolutely disgusting that someone would assault paramedics who are coming to help.
“People who do assault paramedics should be held to account.”
Mr Stephenson added that based on his experiences as a community first responder he believes that a rise in the number of people taking psychoactive substances may have led to an increase in assaults on public servants.
He said: “Speculating on the basis of my experience as a community first responder and knowledge of assaults on other public servants, this is one of the root causes.”
Chairman of Pennine Patient Voices Group, Russ McLean, said: “My initial reaction is one of anger. The fact that these ambulance crews are trying to save lives and getting assaulted.
“These people need to be sent a very strong message.”
In spite of the concerning figures, the trust said that it does not categorise any locations as ‘No-go zones’ but that it does place a violence and aggression marker against properties where crew have reported violence or aggression.
Blackburn with Darwen Council’s area had nine flagged addresses in 2013 and 2014 rising to 10 in 2015.
From 2013 to 2015 the number of flagged addresses for the Burnley Council area remained at five.
In the same period there were four flagged addresses for Hyndburn and Pendle district councils and one for Rossendale District Council’s area.
Cllr Mustafa Desai, executive member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Any number of assaults on health care staff are clearly unacceptable.
“Anybody responsible for these outrageous actions should be subject to the toughest possible penalties to send a message to others that this sort of behaviour won’t be tolerated.”
Blackburn MP, Kate Hollern, said: “It’s absolutely shocking that people doing a public service are treated in this manner.
“I just hope that the police take it really seriously and send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”
The GMB Union, which represents ambulance crews, was equally scathing.
A spokesman said: “GMB condemns any attack on Ambulance staff.
“These men and women are doing an amazing job trying to help people in times of need.
“We will continue to work with NWAS to prevent such attacks and to offer support to our members who may be victims of assault.”