Star comment: 999 crews deserve all our respect
Ambulance crews were once treated with the greatest of respect. They had an elevated status in society and were viewed with reverence. And they were deserving of such treatment.
After all, the men and women who attended 999 emergencies were frequently giving life-saving treatment or conveying society’s most poorly to hospital.
At times of riot or public disorder, a blue flashing light accompanied by a medical team would be viewed benignly. Ambulance crews were not seen as ‘fair game’. They were to be left alone to go about their business and shown respect where possible.
How times have changed. A gradual deterioration in public standards means crews are no longer afforded such courtesy. In the modern idiom, crews are subjected to repeated and sustained verbal and physical attacks. There is no reason or excuse for such.
Violence and aggression is displayed towards staff on a daily basis – when they are the very people who are trying to remedy a situation. It makes absolutely no sense. It is counter intuitive, dysfunctional and perverse.
The ambulance service has unhappily tolerated such activities for too long. But now the worm is turning and crews are speaking out. They are highlighting the demeaning, insulting, disrespectful and degrading treatment to which they are subjected by those who are beneath contempt.
It is right that they do. For society will stand firm with them as it demands better standards from people who are often too drunk, too unpleasant or too uncouth to make any sense.
Crews should be given respect at all times. Just as motorists make way for them on the roads so people in the streets – whether it’s a drunken Friday and Saturday or not – should do too.
Crews who are subjected to physical assaults are stoic. They remain remarkably professional and focus on the job at hand. While there might be those who would think they ought to beat a hasty retreat for the good of their own safety, crews are selfless. They suffer punches and kicks, abusive language, insults and worse and somehow put that to one side as they go about their work.
But it cannot go on. Staff have had to take days off sick to recover from attacks, adding pressure to already-stretched services. And so we join the ambulance service in making an appeal to all: enough is enough. It cannot go on.