THE number of reports of ambulance service staff being abused and assaulted rose by 10 per cent last year.

More than 1,000 (1,049) incidents were recorded by South Western Ambulance Service Trust in 2017/18– a rise from 952 the previous year.

Of these, 165 were physical assaults with nine members of staff forced to take a total of 32 days of sick leave following the incidents.

About five per cent (52) of the incidents were reported to police with one ending with the perpetrator receiving a 16-week prison sentence.

A report produced ahead of Friday’s meeting of the service’s board meeting said that although most of the injuries were minor it “does not demean the impact these types of events have on staff”.

Alcohol is recorded as the most common factor resulting in physical assaults with 70 of the 165 being described as alcohol-related followed by 44 which were related to mental health issues.

David Partlow, consultant paramedic for the trust, said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of physical or verbal abuse towards our staff, and all reports of violence and aggression are taken very seriously.

“We work closely with the police to seek prosecutions where possible.

“Every member of the trust staff plays a vital role in serving the community by helping to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time and staff should be able to fulfil their life-saving role without fear of abuse or assault.”