AN MP has condemned violence against emergency workers after three of the region’s ambulance crews were attacked at the weekend.

Two staff were taken to hospital with injuries sustained whilst at work and two ambulances were destroyed during Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday, when there was a spike in demand on 999 services.

The North East Ambulance Service said drugs and alcohol appeared to be a factor in all three alleged assaults and that the incidents put ‘an incredible strain’ on the service to respond in a timely manner, especially for those with a genuine life-saving need.

The Northern Echo:

One of the incidents happened in South Hetton, County Durham, just after 1am on Sunday.

An advanced technician crew, employed by a private company working on behalf of NEAS, was allegedly kicked and punched while attending to a patient.

He later reported feeling unwell and was detained by doctors in hospital overnight to check for suspected internal injuries before being discharged home.

Easington MP Grahame Morris expressed his gratitude to ambulance staff and repeated concerns he had previously raised in parliament about the effectiveness of the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act 2018.

He said: "I am concerned about the attack on an ambulance crew working in East Durham on Sunday.

“There needs to be a clear message that attacks on emergency workers will not be tolerated and that offenders will be arrested and prosecuted.

"There should also be an expectation that if you commit such an offence, the most likely outcome will be a custodial sentence.

“These assaults are terrible for staff health, wellbeing and safety at work.

“However, these attacks are also crimes against the whole community, which loses access to medically trained staff and equipment, put out of use following an incident.

“I hope those prosecuted realise the consequences of their actions, and how it could be their loved ones who need the police, fire service or an ambulance which is unavailable due to an attack."

Chris Philp MP, Minister for the Courts said the Government would consult on increasing the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years for assaulting emergency workers.

Mr Morris said it was vital that courts use their full sentencing powers for such cases.

He said: “The courts are yet to impose a maximum 12-month sentence, and the government figures show just a single case received a sentence above six months from over 9,000 convictions in 2019.

“We are not doing enough to protect our emergency workers, and the Government should urgently review the guidelines to understand why the courts are not using the range of sentencing powers available to them."

Durham police said an investigation into the South Hetton incident was ongoing. One man was arrested and subsequently released under investigation, a second man was interviewed voluntarily.

A spokeswoman said: "We were called by colleagues at the North East Ambulance Service who had pressed their emergency buzzer at an address in Palmer Street, South Hetton, just after 1.30am on Sunday, July 12.

"Officers attended the address and arrested a 30-year-old man on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and assaulting a police constable.

"The man was interviewed by police and later released under investigation.

"A 29-year-old man who was also at the address attended the station and was interviewed voluntarily.

"An investigation is ongoing."