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19
Sep

 Royal Assent for Emergency Services Bill


The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill has received Royal Assent and will be enforced from November. The Bill aims to provide greater protection for emergency services workers from assault or threats made against them by members of the public whilst they are carrying out their duties. NHS staff are included in the definition of emergency workers, alongside police officers, prison officers and firefighters.

 

This private members bill was presented by Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda and enjoyed cross party support. It means that tougher sentences will have to be considered for crimes including GBH and sexual assault when committed against an emergency worker. Maximum prison terms for those found guilt of common assault against an emergency worker will increase from six months to one year. 

 

Unions representing NHS staff have welcomed the new Bill.

 

In April, UNISON and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) revealed that physical assaults on NHS staff rose by nearly 10% in England last year compared to 2015/16.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request - submitted by the HSJ working on behalf of UNISON - showed that ambulance Trusts saw a 14.5% increase in violent incidents, rising from 2,036 in 2015/16 to 2,330 in 2016/17.

 

UNISON National Ambulance Officer Alan Lofthouse says: “Attacks on ambulance staff are increasing, making already stressful jobs almost unbearable. 

 

“Most people are grateful and appreciate the difficult job ambulance and other emergency staff do, but there's a tiny minority who abuse and harass them and they should be appropriately reprimanded.

 

“Ambulance staff spend their working days helping the public and saving lives, and their safety should be paramount.”

 

GMB members also campaigned for the Bill and successfully secured an amendment to the legislation to ensure that its scope also included sexual assaults.

 

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB National Officer says: “It is difficult to put into words what this will mean for the hundreds of thousands of emergency service workers who have been assaulted in the line of duty.

 

“Action is long overdue. At least eight ambulance workers are attacked every day, and the threat of violence is forcing many experienced professionals out of the NHS.”

 

He adds: “This must be followed with a Government publicity campaign and proper enforcement action to make sure that those who attack emergency workers are brought to justice.”

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