THE number of violent attacks on ambulance workers have more than doubled in the past five years.
Staff at South Central Ambulance Service (Scas) were assaulted 124 times in 2017/18 compared to 65 in 2012/13.
The figures published as part of a major investigation by union GMB found in 2016/17, staff were attacked 158 times – the highest number of the past five years.
In total over the same period, there were 719 recorded assaults on Scas staff.
Examples of violent attacks reported by GMB members include being bitten, stabbed, having blood spat at them by intravenous drug users, having bones broken and racist and sexual abuse.
The union revealed the figures ahead of a vote by MPs on tougher sentences for attacks on emergency workers this week.
GMB carried out a Freedom of Information Act survey of employers.
Paul Jefferies, assistant director of operations at Scas, said: ‘Sadly the figures released by the GMB reflect what our own staff are telling us – that they continue to suffer completely unacceptable verbal and physical abuse while at work and trying to ensure patients get the help they need.
‘Scas will work closely with local police forces to secure appropriate sanctions against anyone who verbally abuses or physically assaults our staff.’
Mr Jefferies said Scas has a number of schemes in place to help improve the safety of its employees.
He added: ‘As a responsible employer, Scas invests significant time and effort into protecting staff as much as possible from such attacks.
‘This includes adding flags or markers to the addresses of any patients where staff have reported any form of assault or threat on a previous contact, encouraging staff to report all instances of abuse and supporting staff who have been assaulted through a range of support services.
‘Lone frontline workers also have a “panic alarm” on their radios which can be activated if they feel threatened.’
The GMB data showed 72 per cent of workers have been attacked while on duty, and 94 per cent were aware of attacks on their colleagues.
Kevin Brandstatter, GMB NHS national officer, said: ‘The number of attacks faced by ambulance workers as they try to save lives is beyond unacceptable.
‘Our members do their jobs with complete professionalism – but everyone has their breaking point.
‘As lone working becomes more common and cuts to services bite, ambulance workers are increasingly vulnerable to violence in the line of duty.
‘Changing the law will be an important first step as current sentences aren’t providing an adequate deterrent.’