EMERGENCY services from across the south west have launched a new campaign to highlight the unacceptable trend in the number of assaults on staff on duty.

The campaign, called #Unacceptable, is highlighting how police, ambulance, fire and healthcare staff are regularly subjected to attacks including serious injury, verbal abuse, spitting and biting, and even sexual assault from those they are trying to help.

Over the last 12 months South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) staff reported 1,049 incidents relating to violence and aggression with an increase of 97 reports for the same period in 2016/17.

It is thought that these figures do not represent the entirety of assaults, as many are never reported by the victims.

Based on previous twelve-month figures, by the end of this year, 701 in Avon & Somerset Police would have been assaulted while carrying out duties to keep the peace within their local communities.

Ken Wenman, of Chief Executive SWASFT, said: “Like all our emergency services colleagues, our crews and control staff work in extremely difficult circumstances and are often under threat of attack or abuse.

"This is totally unacceptable and we will take whatever action is necessary to ensure that our staff are protected and those responsible for such attacks are prosecuted.

“We are very proud to be part of this important campaign and hope that together we can make a significant impact in reducing the number of assaults on our staff so that they can continue to provide an excellent service to the public without fear of attack or abuse.”

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Davies on behalf of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police said: “Our officers and staff, along with other emergency services colleagues, demonstrate commitment, courage and dedication on a daily basis. They signed up to helping and protecting the public, not coming into work each day with the risk of being assaulted. The impact this can have on them, their colleagues and their families can have lasting effects long after physical scars have healed.

“Together, the emergency services want to ensure our personnel can deliver the best possible service to our communities; but in order to do this we need injury-free and healthy work forces. We will not tolerate assaults on our emergency services and will seek to bring criminal proceedings against offenders.

"I welcome the new law to double the maximum sentence from six months to 12 months for assaulting an emergency services worker.”

The goal of the campaign is to keep emergency services personnel safe by raising public awareness and reducing the number of assaults while on duty.