Verbal abuse towards 999 call handlers doubles during lockdown in Dorset and Wiltshire

Video report by ITV West Country's Bob Cruwys

Verbal abuse towards 999 call handlers has more than doubled during the lockdown period.

Figures from South Western Ambulance Service show control room staff are dealing with aggressive and intimidating calls on a regular basis.

The service covers Dorset and parts of Wiltshire, with figures revealing staff reported 77 verbal abuse incidents between March and October this year, well over double the number for the same period in 2019.

Ambulance staff out on the road reported a total of 289 verbal abuse incidents and 178 physical assaults during the same seven month period in 2020, up 21% from last year.

Credit: ITV West Country

Paramedic Mike Jones says: "It's really, really shocking to the ambulance service and us generally. This is a really, really difficult time for all of us in the NHS. We're seeing an increased amount of pressure and indeed services across the whole of the NHS so it's shocking that people feel it's appropriate to assault and attack our members of staff during a pandemic."

The ambulance service is expecting to deal with a high number of emergency calls during the winter with Covid-19 adding to the usual pressures, and it is appealing to the public to respect staff when calling 999 for an ambulance.