Violence, Aggression and Abuse

Violence and Aggression:
Ambulance Staff should ‘Work Without Fear’

NHS ambulance staff who have been attacked while on duty are at the forefront of the national #WorkWithoutFear campaign, led by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives and supported by NHS England to promote respect for ambulance staff across the country.

Quote that 51,000 staff report aggression in last five yearsEvery day during the 2020/21 financial year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked; more than one every hour of every day during the whole of last year, totalling 11,749 staff. This is an increase of 4,060 incidents over the last five years.

The most significant rise covered the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when assaults jumped up by 23% compared with the year before.

They included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving knives and weapons.

The #WorkWithoutFear campaign, launched in Feb 2022, highlights the profound impact of this abuse on the everyday lives of ambulance staff and aims to encourage the minority of people who might commit these offences to have respect for the people who are trying to help them, their friends and families when they need it most.

The campaign features a number of staff from all over the country who have been the victims of assault. Every month we will be adding more stories to this page, showing the impact of this abuse and aggression on our ambulance staff.

Watch Bradley’s story below.

What can I do to help?
  • Spread the message that violence against NHS staff – and anybody else – is never acceptable.
  • Share our #WorkWithoutFear tag on social media and share our films about some of those affected.
  • Print off our posters and place them around your workplace or other social environments.
  • You can download our campaign materials at our Resource Centre (currently being updated)

Daren Mochrie, Chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and Chief Executive of North West Ambulance Service says:

Unfortunately, ambulance staff face the possibility of violence, assault and aggression every time they start a shift. When they occur, these attacks have a significant and lasting impact on the team member, affecting every aspect of their life.

Despite that, ambulance staff continue to turn up for work in order to help and serve their local communities.

We hope this campaign raises awareness of the impact of this behaviour on individuals, emphasises that it is totally unacceptable in any form and ensures that our staff are treated with the respect they deserve. The Assaults on Emergency Workers Offences Act 2018 legislation is in place, but we must now see the judiciary consistently using that to issue the most appropriate sentences to those found guilty of committing these appalling crimes.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

I’m incredibly grateful for the tireless efforts of ambulance staff, and recognise the pressure this pandemic has put on them. NHS staff deserve the right to work without fear of abuse or violence – the sickening actions of a few perpetrators absolutely will not be tolerated.

I’m very proud to support this new campaign, and we’re taking action to protect all staff through the NHS Violence Reduction Programme, as well as backing the NHS, police and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring abhorrent offenders to justice.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, said:

Ambulance staff consistently go above and beyond to ensure people get the help they need in times of emergencies, and have been at the forefront of the country’s response to the covid pandemic. The vast majority of patients and the public show nothing but respect and thanks for the skilled care they receive, but the unacceptable actions of a small minority have a massive impact on the professional and personal lives of our ambulance colleagues.

We should all have the right to work without fear of violence and threats, so I am pleased to support this important campaign as part of our wider NHS violence prevention and reduction work to protect staff wherever they work.

WMAS Paramedic Deena Evans said:

Following my own horrific experiences, I am supporting this campaign to try and prevent my colleagues having to go through what Michael and I have endured. Being attacked so violently by someone I was trying to help completely changed me as a person and I became introverted and scared of going out.

But that fear went away as soon as he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

UNISON National Officer Alan Lofthouse said:

Staff have the right to go to work without being abused. Those who are verbally or physical attacked suffer long-term effects or even leave the job they love. Violence and aggression against ambulance workers is never okay. That important  message must be loud and clear.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt said:

It is entirely unacceptable for NHS ambulance staff to suffer violence and aggression while saving lives. We’re deeply concerned that reported incidents of violence have risen in the last five years and that over 50,000 ambulance crews  and control room staff have suffered some form of verbal or physical assault or threatening behaviour over that period.

In 2020, the maximum jail term for attacking emergency workers was doubled. We will not tolerate abuse of our emergency workers and we will use the full force of the law to prosecute anyone who uses violence against those who are on the front line and who must be able to work without fear.

Tracy Nicholls, Chief Executive of the College of Paramedics, said:

The College of Paramedics wholeheartedly supports the #WorkWithoutFear campaign and firmly believes that every paramedic should be able to go to work and do their job without fear of abuse or violence. The fact that every day last year, 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked is totally appalling and unacceptable. We know from our own engagement with members that nearly three-quarters of paramedics have feared for their own safety or felt threatened at work.

Enough is enough, it has to stop. Now is the time for us all to take a stand and find new ways of working together to prevent abuse from happening, as well as demanding zero-tolerance when it does occur.

Lisa Munro-Davies, Vice-President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

It is right that the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives has launched this vital campaign highlighting the shameful abuse of paramedic and ambulance staff responding to urgent and emergency calls in the community. The instances of abuse from verbal assault to physical harm are alarming and distressing, our solidarity is with paramedic and ambulance staff who face this each and every day while trying to do their jobs.

We support the Work Without Fear campaign, and we support staff speaking up and speaking out. Facing abuse will be incredibly distressing and for some, sharing these instances may be incredibly challenging. Staff speaking out must be protected and provided with the support and care they need. It is critical, as AACE have pointed out, that the judiciary use The Assaults on Emergency Workers  Act 2018 to charge and sentence those guilty of the most grievous acts of abuse – so too should this be used for Emergency Medicine staff who are assaulted or harmed in A&E.

stat that assaults on staff are increasing

The Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

We are proud to support this national campaign to ensure that ambulance staff can go to work without fear. The safety of staff is the top priority for trust leaders.

It is unacceptable that NHS staff experience violence or aggression, whether that be physical or verbal. We are particularly concerned that Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, LGBTQ+ staff and other staff with protected characteristics face additional challenges in the workplace.

NHS ambulance staff provide an incredibly important service to our communities, ensuring that people receive the care they need as quickly as possible, often in life-threatening situations. This involves working incredibly hard to treat people at the scene or getting them to A&E departments, if necessary, while control room staff ensure that those with the most urgent needs are prioritised. Staff being intimidated or attacked not only impacts the staff members involved, but also leads to an impact on the care provided to patients and undermines vital staff recruitment drives.

Karl Demian, TASC’s Chief Executive Officer, said:

Ambulance staff face the possibility of violence and aggression every time they start a shift and at TASC we regularly hear about the devastating and long-term impacts an assault can have on someone’s physical and mental health. In the past 18 months, 15% of the people who have come to us for help have been the victims of violence, with 52% experiencing verbal abuse and a further 41% experiencing physical abuse. The abuse we hear about ranges from spitting, intimidation and having faeces thrown at them, to physical attacks such as punches, kicks, and in a small number of cases, even involving weapons, such as knives, glass or baseball bats. Despite that, they continue to turn up for work in order to help and serve their local communities.

Already having one of the most stressful jobs in the UK, our lifesaving ambulance staff deserve to be able to work without fear of assault or aggression. Violence in any form is completely unacceptable and TASC is proud to support this campaign to raise awareness of this growing issue.

East of England Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Tom Abell said:

It’s time to call out this terrible and unacceptable behaviour and demand that it stops. Our talented people across the region do amazing work and have a right to work without fear.

The effects of both physical and verbal aggression to our frontline and control room teams have a significant and lasting impact, affecting every aspect of their life.

Helen Ray, Chief Executive at North East Ambulance Service, said:

For our colleagues, working for the ambulance service is so much more than a job; they come to work to help people and under no circumstances should they expect to find themselves a victim of any form of abuse whilst trying to do so.

The majority of our patients are extremely thankful for their service, but the minority who choose to abuse our staff need to be under no illusion that we will not tolerate this, and we will always support our colleagues to prosecute.