Attacks on ambulance crews rocket in Lancashire

Ambulance bosses have branded more than 100 homes in Lancashire as too dangerous for paramedics to enter alone.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 6:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 3:50 am
Attacks on ambulance crews have rocketed

The alarming figures follow a Freedom of Information request which also reveals the number of physical attacks on North West Ambulance crews rocketed to almost 400 during 2015/16.

Blackpool has the highest number of notorious addresses in the county where paramedics and ambulance technicians wait for police back-up before answering a 999 call, with 29 on the “risky” list this year compared with 19 in the previous 12 months.

But Preston, with 15, has also been a blackspot in 2016, as has the Lancaster area with 13. The Chorley area had just three, while there were none in South Ribble.

“There are a lot of incidents that we attend where we are quite fearful and quite concerned about our own safety,” said one Lancashire paramedic.

“We contact the police before we go. Obviously that puts a big strain on the police as well – they aren’t there to be our bodyguards.”

Statistics released by NWAS show there were 323 addresses across the region which had a “flag” alert against them this year, 111 of those in Lancashire.

Overall, the blacklist had 72 fewer homes than 2015 in the North West, but rose by around 10 per cent in the county.

Physical attacks on crews went up from 376 to 393 last year compared with 12 months earlier. Verbal assaults on staff showed an even bigger rise from 311 in 2014/15 to 389 in 2015/16.

Other statistics show ambulance staff have a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rate of more than five times that of military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our ambulance crews work extremely hard to help people and save lives,” said an NWAS spokesman. “And it is unfortunate that the trust has to put such measures (police escorts) in place to protect our crews from violence.

“The trust has a robust system for the application and review of violence and aggression address markers in the region.

“Violence and aggression flags are applied to specific addresses to ensure the safety of our staff, allowing the trust to understand where violent or aggressive patients reside.

“Flags applied to a specific address may be a result of previous experiences of our crews when responding to incidents.

“Flags applied to addresses are supported by incident reports, providing evidence as to why the flag is in place and are regularly reviewed.

“When responding to incidents at such addresses our staff will be informed if a patient has a history of violent or aggressive behaviour and will proceed with caution.

“If crews attend incidents at the addresses of patients with a history of more serious violence the crews may be escorted by the police.”

Another paramedic said: “It’s always at the back of your mind, definitely, so you’re more cautious.

“You are safer in a way because you’re a lot more cautious. The ones I personally think get you, and when you are potentially more vulnerable to being attacked or being in a dangerous situation, is in public.

“It’s hard to put a warning on an address where it’s not private, and that’s where I’ve heard of a couple of colleagues being caught out before.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We work in partnership with the ambulance service and provide assistance and support to them when attending incidents where necessary.

“Any deliberate attacks on staff can endanger emergency service workers who are often working in high pressure, life or death situations and as such we take the matter very seriously.”

Of the 15 no-go addresses in Preston during 2016, two were in Ribbleton, two in Ingol, two in Fulwood, two in Ashton and seven in central Preston.

Chorley, Coppull and Eccleston all had one each. And the Lancaster area’s “risky” addresses were in Skerton (1), Scotforth (1), Primrose (1), Carnforth (1), Lancaster (2) and Morecambe (7).