Unite Legal Services supports paramedic assaulted while on call

A 46 year old paramedic, assaulted by a drunken man in the middle of the afternoon while attending an emergency call, has received compensation from his employers with the help of Unite Legal Services.

The Unite member from Isleworth was responding to a disturbance at a chip shop in Acton, west London when he was assaulted by a man who was heavily under the influence of alcohol. The assailant had been behaving aggressively towards the owner of the chip shop who contacted the emergency services. He refused medical attention from the paramedic and instead fled the scene. It was only when the Unite member returned to his ambulance that the drunken assailant reappeared and proceeded to viciously head-butt him.

Police had not been called to the scene prior to the attack leaving the paramedic without further back up or assistance. He needed surgery on his broken nose and was unable to work for five weeks. His sense of taste and smell was damaged by the attack which, despite surgical attempts at correction, cannot be recovered.

Three years on, he may also need a further operation to fix a problem with his breathing.

Unite Legal Services' investigations found that a number of other paramedics had also been assaulted in similar circumstances but that phone screening measures had not been put in place at the time of the assault. His employers, London Ambulance Service, admitted liability for not having a procedure to protect ambulance crews from calls which endangered their safety.

As a result of this case, the ambulance service agreed that paramedics should only attend these types of calls if police are already on the scene to provide back-up.

The Unite member said: “After working as a paramedic for 16 years I was used to people being aggressive towards me on a call, especially when they are drunk. But I had never experienced anything on this level. Since the attack I worry more about my safety on certain types of calls, in case I am putting myself in the firing line. That’s really disheartening when there are people out there who need really medical help. That’s why I became a paramedic in the first place. I’m glad the screening system is now in place as it makes me and my colleagues feel safer.”

Peter Kavanagh from Unite said: "Employers have a duty of care to their workers. This kind of attack shouldn’t just ‘go with the territory’ for paramedics. Proactive action must be taken to reduce the risk of assaults as much as is possible. Had London Ambulance bosses followed up the previous incidents and put a screening system in place, this attack could have been prevented. Because of this failure, our member has been left with ongoing health problems which will stay with him for life. This is a success for Unite Legal Services and all our members should take some comfort from knowing that our legal services are at hand to act for members and their families."