460 assaults on Scottish ambulance staff recorded since 2015
Scottish Ambulance Service staff have been subjected to 460 verbal and physical assaults since the beginning of 2015, according to figures.
Of the assaults recorded, 372 were physical and 88 were verbal (including spitting).
The number of assaults does however appear on course to be lower this year than in 2017 – 40 assaults have been reported so far in 2018, down from the 141 over the course of the previous year.
The FOI request, made by the Scottish Conservatives, also indicated there are over 2,500 addresses in Scotland currently “red flagged” – meaning ambulance staff cannot enter without police presence.
A violence at work survey conducted by Unison Scotland reported there were 18,225 assaults on NHS workers in 2018.
The Emergency Workers Act enables penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both to be imposed following conviction for offences against ambulance staff.
The Scottish Government extended the legislation in 2008 to include health professionals working in the community.
For more serious attacks, other offences such as assault can be used which mean offenders can face penalties up to life imprisonment.
Liam Kerr, Tory shadow justice secretary, said: “Our emergency services constantly help people and save lives in difficult circumstances, often risking their own safety for others.
“It is disgraceful that anyone would assault them, physically or verbally, as they try to help others.
“While this year does seem to be on course to have fewer attacks, one attack on ambulance staff is one too many.
“More must be done to keep them safe, including tough action from the courts in response to anyone who has assaulted, or threatened, ambulance staff.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Attacks against our ambulance staff are despicable and the perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms.
“No-one should be the victim of abuse or violence while at work. We continue to encourage all NHS organisations to support criminal proceedings against anyone who assaults our staff.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Our staff should not have to fear for their safety when treating patients and keeping them safe is of paramount importance to us.
“That is why we have introduced a range of measures to help protect them – individual addresses where staff have previously faced violence or threatening behaviour are automatically flagged to our crews, who can then request additional support, if required.
“Ambulance staff are also trained in managing aggression and assessing risk, enabling them to better judge when they need to wait for support from the Police, or additional ambulance crews.”