Kicked, slapped and abused: Eight emergency services workers assaulted and abused each day in Wales

*Katie Stapleton, Welsh Ambulance Service

Emergency workers in Wales were assaulted on average eight times a day during the first six months of 2021, new figures have revealed.

More than 1,360 assaults were committed between January and June, including kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse.

At least 21 incidents also involved the use of a weapon.

With the level of abuse usually spiking during the Christmas period, emergency workers have called on the public to treat them with respect.

Assaults against police made up around 2/3 of incidents

Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are normal human beings just trying to do a job.

“The run-up to Christmas means more people are out enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption comes an increase in assaults, both physical and verbal.

“There were 60 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the first six months of the year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so we’re asking the public to work with us, not against us this Christmas.”

The abuse in numbers

Claire Parmenter, temporary chief constable at Dyfed Powys Police, said: “Assaults on police officers continue to increase and this is completely unacceptable. 

“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“In September, we saw a man handed a 26-week prison sentence suspended for two years after he violently attacked two of our police officers who had gone to his aid.

“Concerned for his safety, they gave him a lift home – and in return both were physically injured.

“The psychological impact on both officers is something they will take time to recover from.

“With the upcoming season of goodwill, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

'Life-changing consequences'

Although fewer in number, 22 incidents during the six-month period saw an unexplained rise in assaults on members of the fire service.

Chief fire officer Huw Jakeway from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Our emergency services work hard every day keeping the public safe and should not have to deal with abuse.

“Attacks on crews while protecting our communities and keeping people safe is completely unacceptable.

“Our blue light services come to work to serve and protect the public and the impact of such assaults can lead to life-changing consequences for those involved.

“This type of behaviour is, of course, carried out by a very small minority, and we once again thank our communities for their continued support in working with us this festive season to stay safe.”

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

Last week, the UK Government announced it was introducing a new law that will mean a mandatory life sentence for those who kill an emergency worker in the course of their duty.