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Violence against ambulance crews in London soars by nearly 40%

Instances of kicking, punching, spitting or attacking with a weapon affect two ambulance medics per day on average

CCTV of a paramedic being attacked
CCTV of a paramedic being attacked

Physical violence against ambulance crews in London has soared by nearly 40% in the past year, shocking new figures can reveal.

Fresh data released by London Ambulance Service this week has laid bare the “appalling increase in abuse” against ambulance staff, with cases surging from 523 in 2022 to 728 in 2023 – a 39% increase.

The figures show that instances of kicking, punching, spitting or attacking with a weapon affect two ambulance medics a day.

Pauline Cranmer, chief paramedic at London Ambulance Service (LAS), said: “These shocking figures reveal a very, very sad state of affairs.

“Our ambulance crews and call handlers work tirelessly day in and day out to care for Londoners and treat each patient with respect. Abuse of any form can have a profound impact on our staff and won’t be tolerated. 

“On the whole, abusive patients are just a small number of the people our medics see every day, and sometimes violent behaviour arises as a consequence of a medical condition. However, I want to urge the public to treat our staff with kindness and respect while they go about their very busy shifts.  

“We have invested £3m in fitting our ambulances with safety systems to protect our staff and created a dedicated violence reduction team to encourage reporting and ensure abusers are brought to justice.

“Staff and volunteers feel increasingly confident to come forward and trust they will be supported through our own teams and the courts.”

Last November, LAS called for violence against ambulance staff to stop when it released video footage of a paramedic getting pushed out the back of an ambulance by an abusive patient.

The paramedic was shown crashing to the ground and landing hard on his elbow as the patient walked straight past him, displaying no reaction. The patient was promptly arrested and has since been convicted and ordered to pay the paramedic compensation.

The paramedic said: “I’m glad this went to court because it reminds people this is an unacceptable way to treat us and needs to be stopped.

“We come to work to help people, not for this. I always wear a body-worn camera now and I make sure I’m never alone with some patients who I think might be a risk.”

LAS has dedicated violence reduction officers who encourage colleagues to report all incidents of abuse while also supporting them through the court process. Over 70% of staff who experience abuse currently report it and LAS says it “continues to improve its reporting culture”.

While many offenders never to go to court on medical grounds, there have been 38 successful prosecutions since April 2023.

As part of the £3m investment in safety measures, the service fit its ambulances with panic buttons linked to a recording device and new monitors that can help staff see the outside of the vehicle, as well an electronic tracking to help police arrive even faster. 

In recent years, LAS joined ambulance services across the country to launch a ‘Work Without Fear’ campaign to promote a no-violence culture and help create a safer work environment for front-line staff and volunteers. The campaign encourages staff and volunteers to report all incidents of abuse and violence rather than accept it as ‘part of the job’.