Murray MacGregor – Monday 7th February 2022 – 5:30pm.
Children of NHS staff across the Black Country and West Birmingham have made a plea to patients and relatives to treat healthcare professionals with respect.
The initiative sees photographs of the youngsters, asking anyone who uses NHS services to keep their relatives safe.
The children are dressed up in the uniforms of the professions of their parents or grandparents, including a nurse, paramedic, allied health professional, doctor, porter and receptionist.
It is hoped that seeing the children will bring home the message that there is a story and family behind the uniform of every single member of staff.
West Midlands Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “It is simply not acceptable that staff, who are already doing an incredibly difficult job, should be subjected to this sort of abuse.
“Our ambulance crews and call centre staff should be able to do their job, helping people in their hour of need, without the constant fear of violence or aggression.
“Like all NHS staff, our crews and call handlers dedicate their lives to caring for patients and doing everything they can to help people, so it is both appalling and deeply distressing that they should end up being attacked or verbally abused by so many people.
“It is so important that everyone remembers that these staff are real people, with real lives, just the same as you and me – there is a life behind their uniform and they deserve our respect.”
Deborah Darley, 57, has been a paramedic for the West Midlands Ambulance Service for almost 19 years. Five years ago, she was assaulted by a patient whilst on a call out which resulted in her having a cast on her arm for more than six weeks.
She’s now passionate about raising awareness of the importance of protecting staff against abuse in the workplace, and her grandchildren, Meg (12) and Mollie (6), are pictured in one of the campaign posters.
Deborah said: “I become a paramedic just before I turned 38, so came into the profession a bit later than most people. I left school many years ago and so starting a new career at that age was a really big thing for me to do and I was really proud of myself.
“I absolutely love being a paramedic and feel so passionately about helping others. I’m not the type of person who gives up easily and I like a challenge, but I have been subject to abuse on the job and it does take its toll.
“Over the years I’ve been verbally assaulted, punched, pushed, bitten and spat at. However, in 2016 I was on a call out with a colleague and was seriously assaulted by the patient we were trying to help. This resulted in having my wrist in a cast for over six weeks ‒ I had soft tissue damage and it took months to fully recover.
“Being able to use your hands is a vital part of the job and the injury could have been career-ending for me. I worked extremely hard to get where I am and to face having to give up a career I loved was daunting.
“After the assault, the severity of the situation hit me like a tonne of bricks. My parents, my daughters and my grandchildren were all so worried about me going back to work and it created a ripple through the family. You hear about these types of things in the news but I never thought it would happen to me.
“To my grandchildren, I’m just their nan. They don’t understand why somebody would want to hurt me, especially when I’m just doing my job. My granddaughter Meg actually wrote about the incident for a piece of homework at school and won a literacy award.
“Once I got over the initial shock of the attack, I was pretty angry. I thought, I’m not there to be treated like that, I’m just trying to help people.
“Despite what happened I still love my job and if anything, it made me more determined to carry on. My thought process was, who is this person to stop me from doing my job that I’ve worked so hard to get.
“As a paramedic, you never know what you’re going to get when you go on a call out. In the current climate, I know people have a lot going on and tolerance levels are a lot lower, which is something I always take on board. But ultimately, we’re just there to help people and do our job.
“I always say to people, remove the uniform and boots, and I’m just human like you, with parents, children and grandchildren. I’m there to do my best and if you hurt me, I can’t help you.
“That being said, I’ve met some fantastic people over the years and it’s been an absolute privilege to help them. If someone has called for an ambulance and needs emergency assistance, the situation isn’t going to be nice, but I honestly feel so lucky to be in a position to support people in their time of need. For me, that’s priceless and you wouldn’t get that in another job.
“I feel so passionate about the safety of NHS staff and felt this campaign was a positive way to highlight this. The sad reality is that many of my colleagues have been assaulted whilst at work and it’s just not acceptable. If it can happen to me as a grandmother, it can happen to anyone, and it has to stop.”