Sunderland MP backs calls for tougher protection for emergency crews

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A Wearside MP is backing calls to crackdown on violence against emergency workers.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott was speaking as the GMB released horrifying figures which show the number of violent attacks on ambulance staff has increased nationally by 34% in just four years.

Julie Elliott MP

I totally agree that we need the same protection for all our emergency service workers.

The North East Ambulance Service has reported an increase in the number of assaults from 240 in 2012/13 to 292 in 2017/18.

Nationally, the number of sexual assaults and other sexually abusive incidents increased by 211% between 2012/13 and 2016/17.

On Friday, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill faces its final House of Commons vote.

It would introduce a new offence of common assault against an emergency worker and require courts to treat attacks on emergency workers as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

Julie Elliott said she would not be able to be in the House on Friday because of constituency commitments for Workers’ Memorial Day, but she fully supported calls for further protection for front-line personnel.

“I totally agree that we need the same protection for all our emergency service workers,” she said.

“I would be very happy to see that. I agree entirely that the same protection police officers have should be extended.

“People should be properly protected.”

The GMB has revealed that ambulance staff have been bitten, stabbed and had blood spat at them in a barrage of more than 14,000 physical assaults since 2012.

Following its major investigation into the situation, the union found that in 2016/17, recorded attacks on ambulance workers averaged more than eight a day.

Some of the harrowing incidents which have been reported have included ambulance staff having bones broken and even cars driven at them.

A survey of ambulance staff found 72% had been attacked while on duty, 21% had to take sick leave due to violent assaults, 37% have considered leaving their job due to the threat of violence and 48% said the support offered by their employer was inadequate.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB’s NHS officer, said: “MPs must back emergency workers by backing this crucial legislation on Friday and widening its scope to include sexual assaults.

“The best laws will only be effective if they are enforced. Ambulance workers are there when the public need them – and now they need us all to stand up for them.”

He said: “No-one should be told that facing violence is just ‘part of the job’. 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.”