A series of hard-hitting videos about the violence faced by emergency services staff across the North East have been issued today ahead of the bank holiday weekend.
The videos feature colleagues from the ambulance, police, fire and health services. Staff from across the professions give their own personal accounts of how ‘it happened to me’ – sharing shocking stories of the violence and abuse they have experienced whilst working to support the communities they serve.
From police officers threatened with dangerous weapons, to the racial abuse of health care workers to fire services attacked with bricks and rocks just before bonfire night, and shockingly the story of two ambulance workers who took early retirement following attacks whilst on duty.
The two videos highlights the plight of the emergency services and asks the public to #DoYouBit and help keep them safe as lockdown restrictions start to ease.
Attacks on emergency service workers are shown to be increasing year on year. In October last year, the North East Ambulance Service reported a 21 per cent increase in physical assaults on its crews during lockdown recording an astounding 76 attacks.
It happened to us: Stories of violence
It happened to us: Stories of violence across emergency services in the North East
Title card: It happened to us: Stories of violence across emergency services in the North East
It happened to me last February.
It happened to me on a night shift.
It happened to me a month ago.
It happened to me in September.
It happened to me two weeks ago.
It happened to me in 2018.
Martin, police officer: I was arresting a suspect on suspicion of burglary. He tried to throw me out of a moving van. They punched me, they strangled me and he threatened me with an axe.
Milka, healthcare assistant: I was racially abused and spat at.
Lydia, A&E receptionist: I was subjected to a great deal of verbal aggression from a single patient.
Amy, nurse practitioner: We had a patient a month ago who became quite verbally aggressive and abusive to the point where two other members of staff had to run to my room.
Aaron, firefighter: It was just before bonfire night and we were attacked in the west end of Newcastle by some local youths – I’ve only been in the job just over 12 months.
Lee, A&E nurse: A gentleman was brought in with leg injury and he’d clearly been assaulted. Once the police attended to take a report, the patient became extremely aggressive, verbally abusive to the staff and racist.
Ruth Corbett, clinical operations manager: Well in the last 12 months, I’ve had two staff who’ve taken early retirement following being attacked at work. One who was spat at, kicked, punched, screamed at. The other one was held at knife point and unable to get out of the property.
Lisa, staff nurse: I was punched by a patient.
Lesley, sister: I was called into the room of a patient that we had and I asked what the patient wanted and she turned on me physically. She pinned me to a bed and started to kick me in the chest and pulling my shoulders and hair.
All: It happened to us.
Martin: I’m an experienced officer. I’ve been in the force for 10 years. The level of violence shocked us. I come to work to help people not to get attacked.
Milka: You could be black, white it makes no difference you’re here to give people help and support – not to be abused
Lee: This made us feel very concerned. I’m worried for myself and my colleagues’ wellbeing.
Aaron: We were fearful for myself and also the rest of the crew.
Lydia: After, he had made quite an impact on not just myself, but many of the patients waiting in the main waiting area.
Amy: It’s quite intimidating. Especially when you’re in that room with the door shut by yourself.
Lesley: After the attack, it made me feel really emotionally vulnerable walking into work. Scared people were behind me, of going into a room on my own with them. I felt like every person was looking at me and it really made me feel very overwhelmed just doing my job.
Title card: #DoYourBit. Keep us safe.
Statement from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
Julie Gillon, Chief Executive for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The pandemic really shone a light on the hard work and dedication of our emergency services and key workers across the country. These individuals have had a long 15 months, and it is not over yet.
“On behalf of all of those colleagues, I would implore the public to follow the guidance issued, continue to support all of our key workers and ultimately to be kind.”
Statement from Northumbria Police
Chief Constable Winton Keenen, of Northumbria Police, said: “Officers, staff and volunteers across the entirety of Northumbria Police come to work, every day, with the express desire to keep people safe and protect the North East communities we are so very proud to be such a big part of – often putting themselves in harm’s way as they do so.
“It is completely unacceptable that they and their wider emergency service colleagues should be subjected to violence or any other form of abuse.
“I want to be absolutely clear, we will not tolerate verbal or physical assaults and abuse towards the very people so many of us rely on to come to our assistance at times of need.
“We will always seek to prosecute matters, so many of which are entirely cowardly acts, and will pursue criminal convictions and imprisonment wherever possible.
“It is hugely reassuring to know the overwhelming majority of people in our wonderful region are supportive of Northumbria Police and our emergency service colleagues and to know they join together in condemnation of attacks upon them.”
Statement from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Chris Lowther, Chief Fire Officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “As emergency service workers, we are here to respond when we are needed. It is absolutely unacceptable that firefighters and any emergency service worker, who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, are being attacked in the line of duty.
“I don’t want to go to a firefighter’s home and have to tell their family they’ve been injured in an attack.
“Attacks on firefighters and all emergency service workers has to stop, it’s completely unacceptable and puts lives at risk.”
Data for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service:
|Type of attack
|23rd March 2019 – 22nd March 2020
|23rd March 2020 – 22nd March 2021
|Objects thrown at firefighters/appliances
|Other acts of aggression