Ambulance workers ‘bitten, head-butted and spat at’ in 9,500 attacks in five years

The GMB union said the true scale of the attacks is likely to be higher. Credit: PA

Ambulance workers have been subject to thousands of violent attacks in the line of duty over the last five years, a new study suggests. The GMB union said its investigation has revealed around 9,500 incidents including crews being bitten, head-butted, spat at and struck with weapons. More than 1,200 of the incidents were sexual assaults.

The GMB said the true scale of the attacks is likely to be higher as only eight out of 11 ambulance trusts across England, Scotland and Wales responded to its Freedom of Information Act request. GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said: “Ambulance workers go to work every day to save lives. “Despite this, thousands of them are bitten, attacked, spat at and even sexually assaulted. No one should have to put up with that, least of all those who are there to protect us. “GMB members helped change the law but more needs to be done. We demand full enforcement of the Protect the Protectors legislation, investment in better systems to flag offenders, and much better support for the victims of violence.”

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According to the GMB's figures, there has been a 27% rise in violent incidents against staff in the last five years.

In 2021, there were 11,749 attacks against ambulance staff, according to a separate report by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

Every day last year, 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, it said.

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 association said.