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Bill to protect emergency health workers gains royal assent

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In the past year, there were approximately 17,000 assaults on NHS staff

A new law will result in abusers of paramedics and other emergency health professionals to receive twice the maximum sentence for assault or battery.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill doubles the sentence from 6 to 12 months in prison for assaulting an emergency worker – which includes police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and emergency health professionals.

‘Physical assaults remain a fact of life for many health care workers, from A&E to community services. This bill is the first step towards changing that for good. From now on, anyone who wilfully assaults a health care worker will feel the full force of the law and can expect a tougher sentence if found guilty,’ said Kim Sunley, Royal College of Nursing national officer.

‘But this is not the end of the fight. These attacks do not happen in a vacuum, and improved staffing levels, properly funded services and better support from employers would help further mitigate the risk that too many health care staff run day in, day out.’

In the past year, there were approximately 17,000 assaults on NHS staff.

Health professionals covered by the bill include all nursing staff employed to deliver NHS funded care, including those in the independent sector such as practice nurses.

The new legislation allows judges to consider tougher sentences for various crimes, such as gross bodily harm and sexual assault, if the victim is an emergency worker.

‘Assaulting prison officers or any emergency worker is not just an isolated attack – it represents violence against the public as a whole,’ said Justice Minister Rory Stewart.

‘Every day these public servants do extraordinary work on our behalf, and they must be able to do it without the fear of being assaulted.’

‘Our message is clear – we will protect our emergency services and violence towards them will not be tolerated.’

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