South Western Ambulance staff attacks 'almost part of job'

Image caption South Western Ambulance said it operates a zero-tolerance attitude to any abuse on its staff

Violence and aggression towards ambulance staff is now so common "it's almost part of the job" and "should be expected", a union has said.

South Western Ambulance Service figures showed 130 members of staff were assaulted in 2014 - up from 121 in 2013.

Chris Hewitt, of Unison, said he believed the figures showed only the most extreme of the recorded assaults.

The trust said it operates a zero-tolerance attitude to any abuse.

Mr Hewitt, a paramedic, said he felt some staff were reluctant to report incidents as it would take an ambulance off the road.

"Any violence is unacceptable... the 130 attacks recorded are probably the more extreme versions of violence and aggression," Mr Hewitt said.

"Because it becomes an everyday occurrence some members of the ambulance service are beginning to feel the violence and aggression is almost part of the job and something that should be expected.

"Clearly [this is] absolutely wrong."

Recorded attacks on staff

January 2012 - December 2012: 124

January 2013 - December 2013: 121

January 2014 - December 2014: 130

Source: South Western Ambulance

A South Western Ambulance Service spokesman said it takes all allegations of aggression and violence seriously and that patients can be sent a warning letter about their behaviour if there is sufficient evidence.

The trust added it encouraged all incidents to be reported as soon as possible via appropriate channels.

The service responds to some 850,000 calls a year in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the greater Bristol area.

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