Ambulance boss gets tough on crime

By Roddy AshworthAN ambulance boss has warned anyone deliberately damaging equipment or attacking his staff will face the full consequences of the law.

By Roddy Ashworth

AN ambulance boss has warned anyone deliberately damaging equipment or attacking his staff will face the full consequences of the law.

Last year Essex Ambulance Service spent £20,000 in repairs and registered 26 assaults against members of its staff.

Anthony Marsh, chief executive, described such incidents as “completely unacceptable” and warned the NHS had adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to people breaking the law.

His comments came after a man was sent to jail for damaging an ambulance in the centre of Chelmsford.

It had been called to an incident in Tindal Street and while the crew was there Paul Hendle, 28, jumped on the front of the ambulance and broke its number plate.

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He also pulled both windscreen wiper blades off and damaged the driver's side wing mirror.

Hendle, of no fixed address, was arrested at the scene and appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court, where he pleaded guilty to criminal damage and was jailed for 56 days.

Mr Marsh said: “We welcome the tough sentence handed down by the magistrates in Chelmsford. Essex Ambulance Service will not tolerate such behaviour.

“Ambulance staff are in the business of saving lives and helping people with medical problems.

“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to threaten or attack any member of staff or damage equipment owned by the trust.

“The NHS has a 'zero tolerance' policy and we will bring the full weight of the law to bear on anyone who abuses or assaults our staff or damages our property

“Unfortunately, our crews are having to put up with an increase in violence and verbal abuse. In the past they have been kicked, head butted, punched and spat at.

“If one of our vehicles has to be taken off the road, it means there is one less available to help people and the crew would have been unavailable to answer emergency calls - that could have had a tragic outcome.”

n The Essex Air Ambulance has recorded its busiest month, carrying out 143 missions in July.

Dave Surtees, senior pilot, said he could not remember a time when more missions had been flown or when the helicopter had been so important in saving lives around Essex.

“The roads continue to gridlock and speed is of the essence when you're trying to get seriously ill or injured patients to hospital,” he said.

“Considering the remote outlying areas in Essex, the air ambulance has to be something that is well supported.”

It costs an average of £100,000 a month to run the aircraft, and this money comes from donations from the people of Essex.

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