Stronger alcohol policy needed to protect ambulance staff

There was a BBC news story in August that looked at assaults on ambulance staff in the North East that you can view here.

ambulance staffAt the same time Balance North East were urging that a stronger alcohol policy was needed to protect ambulance staff as almost half of North East paramedics have been subjected to alcohol-fuelled physical assaults whilst on duty, according to Balance North East.

The regional alcohol group conducted a survey with more than 350 paramedics working for the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS). Two in five of the paramedics surveyed have been sexually assaulted or harassed by drunk patients and members of the public.

Results from the survey also found:

  • More than 9 in 10 NEAS paramedics feel that dealing with alcohol-related call outs places an unnecessary burden on their time and resources.
  • Two-thirds of paramedics said alcohol-related incidences accounted for at least half of their workload during weekend evenings.
  • Two-thirds of paramedics stated that they felt at risk of physical assault when working in the night time economy.
  • 9 in 10 have been threatened at least once and almost half six or more times.
  • Two-thirds of paramedics stated that in excess of 75% of call-outs for assault were alcohol-related.

As well as the report [pdf], Balance also highlighted a number of case studies within the press release.

A case for action?

Balance have continually campaigned for firmer alcohol policy such as minimum pricing and tighter advertising and availability, with much previous work focusing on the need to protect children. Balance say the NHS picks up around a quarter of the £911 million cost of alcohol harms to the region, as well as the personal impact on front line staff.

Whilst the North East may also be amongst the worst affected regions, earlier this year a report by researchers at the University of Bath estimated the costs of binge drinking to the UK at £4.9 million. It calculated that binge drinking increases the average number of daily injury-related A&E admissions by 8% (equivalent to 2,504 additional daily admissions nationally), as well as the impact on policing and road incidents. Add to this the wider impacts to the economy and the estimated £21 billion cost to society figure for England outweighs its tax revenue.

However those wanting to see MUP and other controls are still likely to have their campaigning work cut out. Despite the national Public Health England behind MUP, most would not back it to be instated by the new Government given the coalition’s record.

On the other hand, the Home Secretary’s last stated position was that she was “not rejecting MUP – merely delaying it until we have conclusive evidence that it will be effective.” Meanwhile the next step in Scotland’s MUP legal battle will be an opinion of the Advocate General, expected to be delivered 3rd September according to SHAAP.

Anyone who works as part of the emergency services – be that fire, police, ambulance paramedics or nurses and other allied professionals in hospital A&E’s know that working in these environments you are more vulnerable to verbal and other kinds of assaults.  Doesn’t mean we like it, are tolerant of it or that it doesn’t leave scars.  I know nursing staff who have been so badly assaulted by patients that they have been unable to return to work because of the stress and PTSD they suffered because of the attack.  You used to get additional salary allowances – danger money – for tolerating these kinds of working conditions but not anymore.  Something needs to be done or more good people will leave these professions  …..

3 thoughts on “Stronger alcohol policy needed to protect ambulance staff

  1. Geez—not only does it place unnecessary(or, preventable) burdens on our public resources it threatens their physical safety as well. Something needs to change! xx

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