Launch of More than a Uniform campaign
Ambulance staff appeal for respect
North East Ambulance Service staff are sharing what it’s like to be attacked by the patients they are trying to help as part of a new campaign.
The #MoreThanAUniform campaign aims to highlight the stories from road staff and those working within the Trust’s Emergency Operations Centre, and comes in the wake of a number of vicious assaults from patients over the last two weeks.
Deputy chief executive Paul Liversidge condemned the violence and promised the full weight and support of NEAS behind his staff to ensure justice is sought.
NEAS crews already use CCTV on board vehicles and body-worn cameras are due to be rolled out further across the service following a successful pilot last year.
Mr Liversidge said: “Enough is enough. This despicable behaviour is harming my staff and putting the lives of other patients at risk when we’re unable to respond to the next emergency because of an assault.
“I am sending a clear message to those who think it’s okay to attack my staff that we will not tolerate this behaviour.
“The NHS and NEAS has been under an enormous amount of pressure and strain dealing with coronavirus for the last four months. Our crews and staff are tired and I am concerned for the longer-term implications of this pandemic on their mental health.
“We are still dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, which the sensible majority is helping the NHS to tackle. But the acts of a foolish minority have now spilled over to violence and these people need to be swiftly and appropriately dealt with so that they do not put any others of my staff in any danger. We will now be looking for the support of the courts to keep our staff safe while they are at work,”
In the new campaign, staff open up about how it feels to be verbally abused, threatened with knives, kicked, spat at, and watch colleagues leave the service.
Paramedic and father-of-three Dave Puddy has been in the ambulance service for more than 20 years.
He said: “I’ve been in lots of volatile situations over the years but thankfully have only been physically assaulted three times. The first time I was kicked by a drunk female, the second time I was kicked by a drunk male and the third time I was held hostage by a man with a knife.
“You don’t go home and tell your loved ones about your day when things like this happen. You don’t want them to be thinking when you walk out of the door that you might not come back.”
And, sadly, it is not just road staff who are being abused whilst trying to save lives.
Our 999 and 111 health advisors are trained to try and keep people calm when they are panicking; to understand that a caller may become verbally aggressive when scared. However, the level of abuse that health advisor Kerry Cowell and her colleagues regularly receive is unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, being verbally abused is now normality as a call handler,” said health advisor Kerry Cowell, who has been taking 999 and 111 calls in the North East for four years.
“I have been sworn at, screamed at, threatened and have also been told by one lovely gentleman that he would be waiting for me after work.
“There is absolutely no need, especially when all we are doing is trying to help. As awful as it sounds, the pandemic came as a little light relief as callers were kind, considerate and thankful for our help. Unfortunately, now lockdown is easing, its plain to see that it's going back to ‘normal’ and that is not ok.”
You can their stories, and those of their colleagues here.