CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Ambulance chiefs pledge zero tolerance approach to New Year attacks on staff

AMBULANCE chiefs are warning they will take a zero-tolerance approach to anyone abusing or attacking staff during the New Year celebrations.Party-goers are being urged to keep themselves safe and show consideration and respect to ambulance workers on wha

AMBULANCE chiefs are warning they will take a zero-tolerance approach to anyone abusing or attacking staff during the New Year celebrations.

Party-goers are being urged to keep themselves safe and show consideration and respect to ambulance workers on what is traditionally the busiest night of the year for the emergency services.

Extra police officers, ambulance staff and hospital workers will be on duty across East Anglia.

Paul Bassett, who will be in charge of operations in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire for East of England Ambulance Trust, said: "We do expect a much busier night than usual and we're geared up to respond to that. We normally do the equivalent of a full days' work in the first seven hours of January 1.

"We've got various management structures and escalation plans in place and our crews in ambulances and cars will receive support from their voluntary colleagues in key areas.

"We have staffed the control room to the maximum with call-handlers and dispatchers and we'll have extra managers walking the floor."

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Mr Bassett said the number of calls dealt with by the service had grown year-on-year, and that as well as alcohol-related injuries, staff would be expected to deal with more traditional medical emergencies, including chest pains, breathing problems and chronic illnesses.

"The clear message we want to send out is that we will be under immense pressure," he said.

"We want people to enjoy themselves. If you're drinking, pace yourself where possible and include soft drinks. Don't leave yourself vulnerable and make sure you have arranged your transport home."

"The thing that has changed is the number of assaults and aggressive incidents that we attend. We're very reluctant to send staff on their own to those calls. We also rely on the police for assistance.

"The NHS nationally has a zero-tolerance policy on assaults on staff. They are taken very seriously and we will push for prosecution and maximum penalties in those cases."

Ch Insp Gavin Tempest, one of the police commanders in charge in Norfolk, said: "We do anticipate it's going to be busy and we can say that there will be sufficient officers to patrol with a high-visibility presence in key areas, such as Norwich city centre.

"We will also have an extra layer of officers over and above that who can react to events. For instance, if we are aware of some potential disorder we will be able to deploy in sufficient numbers.

"My experience of policing these situations is that it there is a small minority of people who are affected badly by alcohol, and within that a small group who are prone to violence and disorder.

"The majority of people are out having a good time and that's quite infectious for police officers working on the night."

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's accident and emergency department will have two extra nurses and an additional consultant on duty.

A spokesman said: "On a typical Wednesday evening we would expect to see around 50 people attend A&E between 9pm and 7.30am. Last New Year this figure increased to 80 during this time and we would expect to see around this figure again this year.

"We would like to remind people that A&E is designed for people with serious injury and illness. It is an emergency if the person is having a suspected heart attack, complaining of chest pains, unconscious, losing a lot of blood, suspected of having a broken bone, suffering from a deep wound or head injury or struggling to breathe."

In other cases people should use other services, including walk-in centres, pharmacies and NHS Direct, she added.

A spokesman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, said: "We are anticipating a very busy night, particularly in the few hours after midnight, with people who have drunk too much and who may also have become involved in incidents or accidents as a result.

"We will be having an additional doctor on duty in our A&E department during the night to help with the additional workload.

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