Ambulance service's fears over lockdown easing after last year saw people go from clapping to attacking
Ambulance crews have expressed concern they will be in the firing line again for violence fuelled by the easing of the lockdown.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has issued a call for people to respect emergency workers as the next stage of the restrictions are relaxed from today, Monday, May 17.
A service spokesperson said: “Last year the public went from clapping us to hurting us in a matter of weeks when the first lockdown restrictions were eased.
“We’re concerned that the further easing restrictions this week could lead to this happening again.
"Our staff should be able to come to work without fear of being abused.
"Please treat them with the respect they deserve.”
Its More Than A Uniform Campaign was relaunched last month in anticipation of a potential rise in abuse.
The service began its campaign in July last year after several “vicious assaults from patients” over the two-week period after the easing of the initial restrictions.
Deputy chief executive Paul Liversidge said: “We are still dealing with a pandemic, which the sensible majority is helping the NHS to tackle.
"Our staff have worked extremely hard under difficult conditions to keep the public safe.
"Yet, at a time when people were clapping the NHS and essential workers for our efforts during the pandemic, our crews were also being physically and verbally assaulted more frequently than ever before.
“I said it last year and I’ll say it again now – enough is enough.
“Our staff deserve to go to work without fear of being assaulted.
"Please know, if you choose to abuse my staff, you will be reported to the police.”
Between April 2020 and March 2021, at the height of the pandemic, it recorded 270 physical assaults and 319 verbal assaults against ambulance staff.
This was a 25% increase in physical assaults in the last 12 months, mostly fuelled by drink or drugs, compared to the Covid-free year before.
It was also a 9% rise in verbal assault.
NEAS says assaults – both physical and verbal – can have a lasting impact on staff, ranging from marriage breakdowns to leaving the profession altogether.