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Ambulance staff attacks soar 30%

ATTACKS on ambulance staff have soared 30% in the past two years – reaching an average of almost one a day.

Workers were subjected to 297 assaults in the past year, significantly up on the 219 attacks reported two years previously.

At least two of the incidents involved paramedics being shot, one of them carried out by children as young as eight.

Health Secretary Alex Neil yesterday vowed any attack on ambulance staff "will not go unpunished".

Details of the incidents include a female worker who was shot in "the back of head with a pellet gun" by a gang of eight to 10-year-old boys while caring for a patient in Glasgow.

Also last year, a staff member needed surgery to her hand after she was attacked by a pregnant patient furious at being told not to smoke in an ambulance.

The incidents, revealed under Freedom of Information laws, also include an ambulance worker from Grampian who needed two days off work in July this year after a radio was thrown at him.

The previous March, in the Lothians area, a worker was subjected to "racial comments" and then assaulted by an "intoxicated female".

In September last year, an ambulance worker in Glasgow was shot with a "firearm" while on duty.

Mr Neil vowed that those who abused ambulance workers would feel the full weight of the law. He said: "Any attack on ambulance staff or emergency workers is completely unacceptable and will not go unpunished. We extended the Emergency Workers' Act in 2008, while we provided additional funding in 2010 to health boards to fund projects to counter violence and aggression."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "The fact there is an attack on ambulance workers almost every day in Scotland is totally unacceptable."

Mr Carlaw claimed the Government was not doing enough to protect ambulance staff. "The SNP may brag about recorded crime levels reaching a record low, but this simply is not being experienced on the street," he said.

A spokesman from the union Unison, which represents many ambulance staff, said: "Violence against workers is always a concern and even one attack is utterly unacceptable."

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: "The safety of ambulance staff is paramount and the service has a number of measures in place to protect staff. All crews are given training in management of aggression, including de-escalation and breakaway techniques, and how to undertake a full risk assessment on arrival at a scene to establish if there is any potential danger.

"If any ambulance crews feel their safety may be compromised, they are instructed to hold nearby the scene and await support from the police, or additional ambulance crews."

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