Every day last year, a staggering 32 ambulance staff were abused or attacked – more than one during every hour of every day throughout the whole year: a total of 11,749 staff. This was an increase of 4,060 incidents over the last five years. The most significant rise covered the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when assaults jumped up by 23% compared with the year before.
The assaults included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious attacks involving knives and weapons.
The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives – with support from NHS England - has launched the national #WorkWithoutFear campaign to highlight the profound impact of this abuse on the everyday lives of ambulance staff and to encourage the minority of people who might commit these offences to have respect for the people who are trying to help them, their friends and families when they need it most.
Deena – WMAS Paramedic/Clinical Team Mentor
Deena is a mother of three and is a paramedic and clinical team mentor (CTM) based at Willenhall hub and has worked for WMAS since 2015.
On 6th July 2020, Deena and her crewmate Michael responded to a category 3 welfare check in Wolverhampton. Whilst trying to gain access to the property with police, Martyn Smith opened his front door and lunged at the paramedics with two large kitchen knives.
Deena was stabbed in the left side of her chest and swiped at the right side. Her colleague Michael stepped in front of Deena and pushed her out of the way to protect her when he too was stabbed. Deena's injuries resulted in her sustaining a pneumothorax and a 500ml haemothorax and she had surgery that night at a major trauma centre where she remained for three nights before being discharged. Deena continues to receive physiotherapy for her movement in her arm as a result of her injuries and still has pain. She was diagnosed with complex PTSD and has since developed OCD and is continuing to receive treatment from a psychotherapist.
The whole incident lasted about 12 seconds, from the moment Deena and Michael entered the property, to Smith being tasered. However, the devastating impact of those 12 seconds will stay with the paramedics forever. 52-year-old Martyn Smith was sentenced on 7th July 2021 to 9 years imprisonment and given an extended licence period of five years after pleading guilty to two counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Deena now wears a body worn camera every single shift and is also currently part of a stab vest trial in the service.
Deena said: “I wanted to be involved in this campaign because of my experiences, the severity of which has never occurred in a UK ambulance service before and I hope it never will again. I feel so strongly about what happened that I want the public to know it is just not ok to abuse people like us who are there to help others as we are just doing our job. Since the incident, many of my colleagues have been threatened with knives and I feel that it's getting dangerous to do the job.”
Victim Impact Statement – an extract from Deena’s statement which she read out in court:
“Your sentence will not give me back the year I lost, neither will it take away my painful and ugly scar, or the mental stress you caused. However, hopefully your sentence will be enough to act as a deterrent to others who think it is okay to attack other emergency services, when they have made a choice to simply do a job.”
You can pledge your support for this campaign by using and sharing #WorkWithoutFear on social media and by visiting www.aace.org.uk/vaa to view films about some of those affected.