As valuable as first responders are and as much as they are an essential part of society, it seems that there are some out there who take this service for granted – with a new investigation revealing that over 200 acts of vandalism have been directed towards ambulances and rapid response vehicles in the past three years.
A BBC freedom of information request has found that between 2015 and October last year, attacks have been carried out with the likes of metal poles, bricks, wheelie bins, fireworks, scooters and knives all used as weapons.
These incidents have seen NHS trusts having to pay out thousands of pounds to repair damage done and take ambulances out of commission in order to have them repaired.
After speaking to 14 NHS ambulance trusts around the UK, the BBC found that there were 204 separate incidents of vandalism over the three-year period, including blue lights being stolen, windows smashed and people headbutting vehicle bonnet. A microwave was also once thrown at an ambulance and a patient in the north-east caused £3,500 worth of damage using a metal pole.
Currently, vandalism that causes up to £5,000 of damage comes with a sentence of three months in prison, but the maximum jail term for assaulting ambulance staff was recently increased from six to 12 months.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman was quoted by the news source as saying: “It's absolutely unacceptable for anyone to deliberately damage emergency service vehicles or other essential kit.
“They are consciously inhibiting the ability of our enormously hardworking and dedicated paramedics to do their jobs, and it risks taking ambulances off the road.”
It’s not just paramedics and ambulances that have to deal with attacks, however, and recent figures collected by the Home Office show that in 2016/2017 there were 738 incidents of this kind on firefighters, a rise of 116 on the year before.
The majority of these incidents involved verbal abuse (55 per cent), while a further 28 per cent involved objects being thrown and/or appliances. The rest involved physical abuse, harassment and other acts of aggression.
Trade union Unison has now called for bigger sentences for anyone convicted of vandalising rapid response vehicles and ambulances, with the organisation’s Colm Porter commenting that crews in ambulances who are in the middle of treating a patient can see bricks, stones, glass, chairs and tables being thrown at them… and while you can repair ambulances quite quickly, it can take longer for frontline staff to put what they’ve been through behind them.
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