Prince Charles condemns ‘unimaginable’ rise in attacks on frontline NHS staff

Prince Charles talks about attacks on NHS staff while visiting Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London

The Prince of Wales has condemned “unimaginable” rising levels of violence and abuse frontline NHS staff are experiencing.

Heir-to-the-throne Charles visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London on Thursday, and personally asked to meet some of the paramedics and ambulance crew on the receiving end of the attacks.

Charles shared his shock after speaking to the NHS workers, saying: “You can’t believe it, can you?

“When I think of what it has been like for so long, and how many people have been lucky enough to have wonderful paramedics and ambulance staff coming to their rescue…

“But now you find the situation rising – violence, attacks, verbal attacks, racial abuse and everything else.

“To me it’s unreal, unacceptable. Why attack the people who are trying to look after you?”

ITV News Senior Correspondent John Ray reports on the shocking abuse some paramedics have received while on shift

Earlier this month, it was announced that paramedics in England are to be fitted with body cameras in a bid to prevent thousands of attacks each year.

Even as NHS workers risked their lives to help the country during the coronavirus pandemic, they were being attacked when attending emergency call-outs.

Data from the NHS in England showed that 3,569 ambulance staff reported being assaulted in 2020/21 – a 32% rise from five years previously.

Antony Tiernan, of the London Ambulance Service, said: “Sadly, our latest figures show there have been 529 violent incidents on our staff and volunteers between April 2020 and January this year.

“Those attacks include kicking, punching, head-butting, biting and spitting and there have also been 31 assaults with weapons. In addition, there have been 834 incidents of verbal abuse and threats.”

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Prince of Wales was shocked to hear that those who have done so much for all of us in this pandemic are the victims of abuse and violence from a small minority.

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“NHS frontline staff and volunteers deserve our support, thanks and respect for the important work that they do.”

Charles was meeting workers from the Chelsea & Westminster and Lewisham & Greenwich NHS trusts to thank them for their service during the Covid-19 crisis.

He was also seeing how his Prince’s Trust Health and Social Care programmes had supported them into NHS employment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock joined Charles at the hospital.

Mr Hancock was criticised as “hopeless” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in messages revealed by Dominic Cummings on Wednesday.

The Prince greeted him with a namaste, but Mr Hancock attempted an elbow bump, with Charles moving his arms and then his legs and joking it was like doing the “true Hokey Cokey”.

Charles said the government was now going “all out” on its vaccine programme, adding “especially the younger ones”.

“And they are queuing up,” Mr Hancock replied.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock attempting an elbow bump with Charles Credit: Steve Reigate/Daily Express/PA

London Ambulance Service volunteer James Holt met the Prince in a new staff wellbeing garden.

Mr Holt told him: “We get so used to the verbal abuse that we don’t ever report it.”

He added: “It’s only when you think about it, you realise how normalised it has become for us. It happens so regularly, we almost forget about it.”

Shurelle Elevique told the Prince she had been subjected to vicious racism, while Zaidia Hussain left Charles almost speechless when she said she once had a knife pulled on her while on a call-out.

Ms Hussain said afterwards: “You have to be so aware of what’s around you when you go into a house, which shouldn’t be your focus. It should be the patient.

“I have managed to get two convictions (against people). One man racially abused me and then tried to hit me. And the second was a lady that pulled a knife on us.”

The Prince told some of the staff: “What would we do without you?

“I was very interested to hear about the things that you have had to put up with. It’s inexcusable.”

He added: “We owe you a huge debt of gratitude.”