Rise in abuse of 999 call handlers in West of England

Assault on paramedic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One caller threatened to stab and set fire to the call handler's house

Abusive calls to 999 call handlers are on the rise, according to emergency services in the West of England.

South Western Ambulance Service says paramedics and call handlers dealt with 1,118 incidents of violence and aggression in 2018, up by 73 on 2017.

In one call to the Bristol control centre, a caller threatened to stab and set fire to the call handler's house. He was later taken to court and fined.

Ken Wenman, from the service, said it was "totally unacceptable".

"We will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that our staff are protected and those responsible for such attacks are prosecuted," he added.

South West Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust is working with other emergency services from across the region to highlight the rise as part of the ongoing 'Unacceptable' campaign against the abuse of frontline staff.

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Media captionAbuse and threats to 999 call handlers are on the rise.

Based on 2017-2018 figures, the forces estimates more than 1,400 police officers from Devon and Cornwall Police, Dorset Police and Avon and Somerset Police will have been assaulted in the past financial year.

In September it was announced maximum prison terms for people found guilty of common assault against emergency workers were to double.

Call handler Natalie said verbal abuse and personal threats were a regular feature of the job.

She said: "We are trained to diffuse what can be very traumatic situations and we completely understand abusive language from a stressful situation is different to being personally threatened with violence.

"It's very upsetting, it's very hard, but we are all humans, personal violence is as upsetting to us as it would be to a person on the street but in the back of our minds we want to care for the patient."

Mr Wenman said he hoped the campaign could "make a significant impact in reducing the number of assaults and abuse on our staff".

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