Ambulance staff facing safety threat

Date published: 26 February 2009

Ambulance crews are being threatened at hundreds of addresses across Greater Manchester, worrying figures have revealed.

The problem is so severe crews are told not to attend many addresses without a police escort or are instructed to be “extra vigilant”.

Figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that 3,071 addresses in the North West are flagged up to warn ambulance staff — almost half of the 7,500 nationally.
The worst-affected areas are believed to be where there is a high police presence and violence-fuelled crime, including large parts of Greater Manchester.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said: “It is unacceptable that such a large number of people are posing a threat to the safety of ambulance crews.

“Tough action must taken when their safety is threatened. Protective body armour should be made available to all frontline ambulance staff.”

Unions have repeatedly warned paramedics are being put at risk because they are not given the vests as part of their standard uniform.

Warnings to crews also cover individual patients who have threatened staff, have a history of violence, have used weapons against staff or made sexual threats in the past.

The Department of Health said crews can have vests if decided necessary by their local NHS trust.

The North West Ambulance Service says it operates a flagging system that allows staff to make informed judgements when attending patients.

Despite the high number of addresses listed, health chiefs say that is just 0.10% of the seven million people living in the region.

Area director Paul Ferguson said: “Our staff are there to help people unconditionally. However, as an employer we have a duty of care towards staff. Violence and aggression, of any form, against emergency crews will not be tolerated.”

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