South Western Ambulance staff report 290 incidents of violence and aggression during coronavirus lockdown

Hundreds of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) staff have experienced violence and aggression while working during the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of the cases were verbal abuse from patients, relatives and members of the public.


Number of reported incidents


The percentage of cases that were verbal abuse

Ambulance crews and control room staff reported 290 incidents during the first 10 weeks of lockdown from 23 March to 31 May.

There were also 46 physical assaults against SWASFT staff.

Several have shared their stories to try and raise awareness of the problem.

  • Mark Walker was spat at by a patient he was trying to treat in Dawlish, on Monday 25 May.

Mark's offender was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison. Credit: SWAFST

The incident was pretty unpleasant. But for the person to be arrested, charged and sent to prison barely within 24 hours was a good outcome.

Mark Walker, Emergency Care Assistant
  • Keziah Pietersen has been kicked down a flight of stairs.

Keziah Pietersen has experienced physical and verbal abuse while working as a paramedic. Credit: SWAFST

I was bruised and shaken. For a long time after whenever I was called out to a similar type of job I was wary.

Keziah Pietersen, Paramedic
  • James Ryan was attacked by a patient in the back of an ambulance while transporting them to hospital.

Paramedic James Ryan was also assaulted while trying to help someone. Credit: SWAFST

It was a horrible experience. The man knocked my glasses off, pinned me down and punched me. This type of violent behaviour is unacceptable.

James Ryan, Paramedic

The ambulance service warns that such behaviour will not be tolerated, and action will be taken to prosecute offenders and protect staff.

It is also encouraging people to lend their support by sharing #Unacceptable messages on social media.

Credit: SWAFST

Jenny Winslade, SWASFT Executive Director of Quality and Clinical Care, said: "Our staff demonstrate dedication and courage every day, putting their own health at risk for the sake of patients.

“Sadly they are facing violence and aggression every day while trying to protect and save our patients’ lives, which is completely unacceptable.

“Any incident of violence and aggression can have serious consequences on them, their families and colleagues. Please respect our people as they continue working during this difficult time.”