Paramedics to get body armour
AMBULANCE chiefs are to spend more than £300,000 kitting their staff out with body armour after fears they could become victims of knife attacks.Employees of Essex Ambulance Trust have complained they feel vulnerable after situations in which some were abused and assaulted while at work.
AMBULANCE chiefs are to spend more than £300,000 kitting their staff out with body armour after fears they could become victims of knife attacks.
Employees of Essex Ambulance Trust have complained they feel vulnerable after situations in which some were abused and assaulted while at work.
Paramedics and drivers in London are so far the only other ambulance staff in the country to be equipped the protective gear, which is also effective against hypodermic needle attacks.
Yesterday Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the trust, said: “We have had an increase in violence and verbal abuse.
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“Fortunately nothing has been so serious as to need the stab vest so far but I need to ensure my staff are safe as possible.
“Also, it is my determination to make my staff feel safe at work.
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“We are taking the NHS 'zero tolerance' policy, and we will pursue through the courts anybody who abuses or assaults our staff.”
He added the cost of providing the vests was estimated at between £300,000 and £350,000.
Yesterday chairman of the trust, Richard Bourne, said: “This has been a problem across the service which was identified under risk management.
“The issue is one of staff confidence and making sure employees feel adequately protected. I do not think they will wear them all the time.
“To fully equip the staff will cost several hundred thousand pounds. We hope they will be available this year but it is possible it will be delayed another year.”
Peter Redfern, Unison branch secretary for Essex Ambulance Service members, said: “This is something we pushed for following representation from members.
“It has to be said, the instances of recorded attacks on ambulance crews are fairly low, but if one person gets stabbed it's one too many.
“A lot of staff working on the periphery of London were finding themselves on jobs where risk assessment by London Ambulance Service said their employees should wear the vests.
“It was felt this would be a useful addition to our personal protection system.
“I've been in the job for 23 years and I think it's a sad day for this to have to be introduced.
“It is a considerable amount of money that could be used for other things – such as basic care – but it is now required.”