Yvonne Ormston, NEAS chief executive, is pictured with Colin Shevills, director of Balance

Paramedic survey reveals burden alcohol places on region’s ambulance staff

Results reflect service-wide pressure faced by alcohol

Almost half of North East paramedics have been subjected to alcohol-fuelled physical assaults whilst on duty, a new report has found.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has been working with Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, to show the effect alcohol has on the service.

Balance carried out a survey of more than 350 paramedics and has now published a report of its findings.

Although focussed solely on paramedics, their answers reflect the issues faced by crews working throughout the service.

Two in five paramedics said they had been sexually assaulted or harassed by patients and members of the public who have drunk too much and three in five said they shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of alcohol misuse.

Nine out of 10 paramedics said they had been threatened at least once and at least half said they had been threatened six or more times. Two thirds said they felt at risk of physical assault when working in the night time economy.

Two-thirds said alcohol-related incidents accounted for at least half of their workload during weekend evenings.

Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive, said: “Our crews don’t just deal with drunk weekend revellers; our crews see the effects of alcohol at all times of the day and all times of the week, spread across our region and from patients of all ages and backgrounds.

“For our staff, this is more than a job. But alcohol related calls take up far too much of our time and are often an abuse of our service, taking our resources away from patients who need us most.

“Intoxicated patients take much longer to triage on the phone and are more likely to be aggressive, placing staff in potential danger and increasing their stress levels.

“We take a zero tolerance approach to assault and support staff every step of the way if they have been abused. All staff also have access to a counselling service and a number of helplines to ensure their mental health is looked after as much as possible.

“We are pleased to be working with Balance to highlight the issues we face.”

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “It’s outrageous that paramedics don’t feel safe in their working environment as a result of other people’s alcohol misuse. These are people who are there to help us when we need it most, yet they are living in fear of physical and verbal abuse on a daily basis. How many of us would expect to work like this?

“It’s clear from this report that our paramedics are personally paying the price for the alcohol misuse of others. This is an unnecessary burden on time and resource and it is completely unsustainable.”

To view the report, please click here.

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