The maximum sentence for assaults and attacks on emergency workers, including NHS staff, will be changed to 12 months in prison, as a new law comes into effect in November.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, which became law on 13 September, states that the maximum time offenders convicted of assaulting or attacking emergency staff spend in jail will double from six to 12 months.
The law also states that judges should consider tougher sentences in other cases such as instances of GBH or sexual assault, when the victim is an emergency worker.
‘A national scandal’
Chris Bryant MP, who put forward the proposal for the law, said: ‘The growing tide of attacks on emergency workers – including ambulance workers, NHS staff, fire officers, prison officers and police – is a national scandal.’
He added that ‘an attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us’, and that perpetrators ‘should face the full force of the law’.
There were over 17,000 assaults on NHS staff in the past year, according to official Government figures.
Of these, 477 were against London Ambulance Service staff, according to the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
Incidents include paramedics finding abusive notes on their ambulance or, as in the case of Harry Turner, an emergency ambulance crew member based in north London, being attacked by a woman he was trying to help.
London Ambulance Service chief executive Garrett Emmerson, said: ‘We will always push for the maximum sentence for those who abuse or assault our staff, and we remain fully committed to working closely with the police and prosecuting authorities.’
In an effort to better protect NHS paramedics from abuse, the Government launched a pilot in July offering body cameras for paramedics to wear and support to NHS employers to allow them to make free mental health and physiotherapy available to staff.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) national officer Kim Sunley said: ‘The RCN has campaigned tirelessly for this law.
Our negotiations have ensured it covers as many healthcare workers as possible, including community and district nurses, and alongside other emergency workers’ representatives we successfully expanded the scope of the bill to include sexual assault.’