Blackpool paramedics ‘fear for their lives’

Attacks on paramedics have increased
Attacks on paramedics have increased
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Attacks on paramedics have soared in the last year as the list of places on the Fylde coast deemed too dangerous to go without police back-up has grown.

Ambulance workers in Blackpool told The Gazette they often fear for their own safety as they put themselves in harm’s way to help others.

More than one in four of Lancashire’s 111 ‘risky’ addresses – where it is unsafe to go alone – are on the Fylde coast.

Ambulance technician Dan Farnworth said: “There are a lot of incidents that we attend where we are quite fearful and quite concerned about our own safety.”

The number of reported assaults on North West Ambulance Service staff rose from 687 to 782 last year.

Ambulance technician Dan Farnworth said he would never work in any other area except Blackpool because of his love for the town, but admitted he is ‘not surprised’ there are more no-go homes here than anywhere else in the region.

“There are a lot of incidents that we attend where we are quite fearful and quite concerned about our own safety,” he said.

“We contact the police before we go. Obviously that puts a big strain on the police as well.

“They are not there to be our bodyguards, but they are there to ensure our safety and the safety of the patient and everybody else involved.”

Paramedic Rich Morton added: “It’s always at the back of your mind, definitely, so you’re more cautious.

“You get plenty of warning from control and we get a lot of support from the police as well.

“You are safer in a way because you’re a lot more cautious. The ones I personally think get you, and when you are potentially more vulnerable to being attacked or being in a dangerous situation is in public.

“It’s hard to put a warning on an address where it’s not private, and that’s where I’ve heard of a couple of colleagues being caught out before.”

As well as the rise in blacklisted addresses with a history of attacks or abuse, the number of paramedics and ambulance technicians being assaulted has also increased.

Last year in the North West, 393 were physically attacked, up from 376 in the 12 months before, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

The number of verbal assaults also rose, from 311 in 2014/15 to 389 last year.

Despite ambulance crews being a vital lifeline for many residents, almost half have reported being attacked nationally, while nine in 10 become mentally ill because of their job.

And earlier this year, an investigation by the short-lived national newspaper The New Day showed ambulance workers have a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rate of more than five times that of military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, with one including Dan who, along with Rich, does a lot of work raising awareness of mental health within the emergency services.

Time-served paramedic David Davis told The New Day: “Myself and my crewmate got called to a nightclub punch-up one Saturday.

“The police were understaffed. We got one of the injured in the back - he didn’t really need medical care, he was just drunk.

“He started swearing and grabbing me and trying to beat me up.

“We had to throw him out. I came back to the ambulance station in shock. I’d never been assaulted before.

“I had another patient who was intoxicated and kicking me in the chest on the way to hospital.

“I had to call the police.”

In 2014, a patient being driven along the M65 motorway attacked a police officer and a paramedic before going on the run for more than 24 hours.

The man was being driven to Royal Preston Hospital when he became violent, forcing the ambulance driver to pull on to the hardshoulder close to Blackburn.

He then ran off and fled over the embarkment, sparking a police manhunt involving a helicopter.

And in Blackpool recently, an ambulance crew responding to reports of a suicidal male were forced to lock themselves in their vehicle after he ran outside his home and lunged at them.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We work in partnership with the ambulance service and provide assistance and support to them when attending incidents where necessary.

“Any deliberate attacks on staff can endanger emergency service workers who are often working in high pressure, life or death situations and as such we take the matter very seriously.”

An NWAS spokesman added: “Our ambulance crews work extremely hard to help people and save lives and it is unfortunate that the trust has to put such measures in place to protect our crews from violence.

“The trust has a robust system for the application and review of violence and aggression address markers in the region.

“Violence and aggression flags are applied to specific addresses to ensure the safety of our staff, allowing the trust to understand where violent or aggressive patients reside.

“Flags applied to a specific address may be a result of previous experiences of our crews when responding to incidents.

“Flags applied to addresses are supported by incident reports, providing evidence as to why the flag is in place and are regularly reviewed. When responding to incidents at such addresses our staff will be informed if a patient has a history of violent or aggressive behaviour and will proceed with caution.

“If crews attend incidents at the addresses of patients with a history of more serious violence the crews may be escorted by the police.”