South Western Ambulance Service Paramedic shares powerful video message after being spat at

Watch Tracy's Video


A paramedic has shared a powerful video message after being assaulted by a patient.Tracy Higginbottom was spat on while she was taking a young woman to hospital in an ambulance during a night shift in Cornwall.Tracy is one of more than 100 South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) staff members who have been physically assaulted while on duty by members of the public since lockdown began.

Tracy says she had to take a month off work to recover from the ordeal. Credit: South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Tracy, who has been a paramedic for more than 20 years, said the “nightmare” experience left her feeling “contaminated, broken and defeated”.

She took a month off work to recover.She recorded a video soon after the incident in July in which she described the episode and the impact it was having on her.

Violence and aggression appear to be escalating, and is something we have to deal with as a part of our job. But I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.

Tracy Higginbottom

Tracy said: "The patient had taken drugs and consumed alcohol in the community. She was out of control and vulnerable.

"We have a duty of care, and I was genuinely concerned for her welfare.“It really kicked-off in the ambulance. She was swearing, kicking and spitting everywhere. It took two of us to hold the patient down to prevent her coming to harm and to prevent her damaging the ambulance.“Afterwards I felt very distressed and traumatised. So I took some time out, because you need to be in the right frame of mind in my role.“Now I’m back at work with support. I was so determined not to allow this horrible experience stop me doing the job I love and from being a part of my wonderful green family.”

Tracy decided not to press charges against the person responsible for the assault.Jenny Winslade, SWASFT Executive Director of Quality and Clinical Care, said: “We praise Tracy for her bravery and courage in speaking out about this dreadful experience. “Nobody should have to face that kind of unacceptable behaviour, especially not a healthcare professional caring for a patient.“Sadly our people face violence and aggression every day while they are trying to protect and save our patients’ lives, which can have serious consequences on them, their families and colleagues."Ambulance staff reported 106 physical assaults by patients and other members of the public between 23 March and 23 August. This is more than the 77 during the same time period last year.

212

Reported incidents of verbal abuse towards ambulance staff during lockdown

56

Verbal incidents were by callers to 999 Control Room staff.

The reported incidents included a separate spitting assault against a staff member in Bristol, which prompted a public appeal by SWASFT and Avon and Somerset Police.

The #unacceptable campaign aims to highlight the abuse ambulance face. Credit: South Western Ambulance Service

The #Unacceptable campaign, which was launched in 2018, aims to highlight the abuse and assaults faced by emergency services workers while on the job.It reminds people that assaults of this nature are unacceptable, and are a crime under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018.SWASFT is encouraging people to share social media posts in support of the campaign to spread the message as far as possible.


  • Watch Jacquie Bird's report: