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Eleven ambulance staff assaulted over six hour period on nightshift

13th July 2023

In an unprecedented 6 hour period, eleven Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff were assaulted whilst on duty through the late hours of 11 July and early hours of 12 July.

July 11 is one of the busiest nights for all emergency services when NIAS staff are under considerable pressure to respond to many calls for assistance. This is made even more difficult when our staff experience physical and verbal assaults when trying to protect the community.

The assaults occurred at four different locations when crews were called to provide medical treatment to patients requiring assistance. The most serious of the incidents happened at a bonfire site in the Carrickfergus area where five staff were physically attacked, including being punched, kicked, bitten and spat at. They also had threats made on their lives. Those assaulted at this call included a Paramedic Student who is unlikely to have experienced anything like this before.

The other assaults on staff took place in the Forthriver area of Belfast, in Belfast City Centre and in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, where one person was arrested.

NIAS staff respond to calls for assistance with only one purpose; to provide the highest levels of clinical care with compassion, professionalism and basic humanity for those patients whose need is immediate. They will often find themselves in situations of risk due to the challenging environment in which they operate. However, it is totally unacceptable that crews should experience any form of physical and verbal assault while they perform their duties.


NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, condemned the latest attacks on staff saying;

On Tuesday night, eleven of our staff left their homes to go to their work, ready to respond to calls for assistance, from wherever they came. Those eleven staff should have had a reasonable expectation that their night would involve nothing more than using their skills to ensure the safety of the communities we serve. It is absolutely disgraceful that during the night they should be abused in the manner in which they were, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

I spent time with our crews across Belfast on 11th July and saw first-hand the professionalism and compassion they brought to all those who needed their care. This is in such stark contrast to the actions of those who behaved in this way towards them.  

I can only imagine the fear these dedicated staff must have experienced in the face of this aggression. I understand that the vast majority of people appreciate the efforts of our crews but that would have been of little comfort to them at that time. Our staff, and all emergency services staff, need the full support of everyone in the community, and I would appeal to anyone who has information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of these attacks, to bring that information to PSNI. 

NIAS has campaigned over many years highlighting the fact that assaults are not, and should never be, part of the job. It is a very sad reflection on some in our community that these incidents continue to happen. 

We will support our staff over the next days and weeks, being aware that the physical injuries will be quickest to heal. The mental distress will likely remain with them for some time to come.

I make no apology for placing the welfare of our staff as a priority but it also concerns me greatly that such attacks can have a serious impact on our response to emergency calls as crews are stood down and cover is reduced. Not only are our staff placed in danger but lives are put at risk by the actions of these irresponsible individuals.

I once again call for those with influence in communities to use that to stress the unacceptability of such assaults, and to raise awareness of the impact such actions have on local communities and also to call for the full weight of the judicial system to be brought to bear on anyone found guilty of attacking our crews.”