07 September 2017

The emergency services from across the South West have come together to highlight the unacceptable trend in the number of assaults on their staff while on duty.

Police, ambulance, fire and healthcare staff are regularly subjected to attacks from those they are trying to help, including verbal abuse, spitting, biting and even sexual assault.

During 2016, paramedics from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) were on the receiving end of more than 161 assaults, this is an increase of 20% compared to five years ago. The type of injuries ambulance crews have received range from cuts and bruising and sprains through to more serious injuries such as dislocations and fractures.

Out of the 140 reported incidents by crews, 50 have resulted in successful police cautions and prosecutions which range from suspended sentence, community service orders, restorative orders, fines and even imprisonment.

One incident in Torquay saw Paramedic Stuart Riley and Karen Lott, Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) subjected to a prolonged serious assault. They were attempting to treat a person who was under the influence of a new psychoactive substance who turned violent. Karen is bravely back at work, even though the vicious attack has affected her.

David Partlow, Consultant Paramedic for SWASFT, said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of physical or verbal abuse towards our staff, and all reports of violence and aggression are taken very seriously. We work closely with the police to seek prosecutions where possible.

“Every member of the Trust staff plays a vital role in serving the community by helping to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time and staff should be able to fulfil their life-saving role without fear of abuse or assault.”

The Trust encourages all incidents to be reported as soon as possible and has a robust reporting mechanism in place. Staff are also supported by the SWASFT Staying Well Service which provides immediate access to numerous sources of support including specialist counselling and physiotherapy. Police and other blue light services also have similar welfare services in place for their staff.

Devon and Cornwall Police, alone, have seen 2,009 days lost to police officers unable to work on the frontline as a result of being assaulted throughout 2016; this equates to around £1m in salary costs.

Notes to editors

  1. For further information and interview opportunities contact: the SWASFT Press office

Notes to editors: Media call

Media are invited to Crownhill Station, Plymouth for interviews with Ian Drummond-Smith at 3:30pm on Thursday 7th September. If you wish to attend, please email

Janice Adam from the police federation is available for interview, please call 01392 354770 to arrange a slot.

The office of the Police and crime commissioner are supportive of this release and can also be contacted on 01392 452574, for comment.

David Partlow, Stuart Riley and Karen Lott are available for interview on Friday 8th September at 11am at Trust Headquarters, Eagle Way, Exeter. Please contact

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Paramedics and volunteers will be offering free blood pressure checks for any visitors to the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) stand this week at the Devon County Show. The team will also be doing CPR demonstrations and educating the public how to act fast and help save patients who may need quick action when they become ill.

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