South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, (SECAmb), has welcomed a custodial sentence being handed to an Ashford man who assaulted a paramedic at a Kent hospital.

Kent Police was contacted on the morning of Tuesday, 15 February 2022, when the paramedic, who does not wish to be identified, was assaulted at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent.

A man was arrested later the same day and, following enquiries, 24-year-old Leon Chatfield, of Hunter Close, Ashford, was charged with assaulting an emergency worker.

24-year-old Chatfield admitted the charge at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 6 April and was jailed for eight weeks at the same court on Wednesday 4 May. He was also ordered to pay £200 victim compensation.

Earlier this year SECAmb joined ambulance trusts across the country in supporting the launch of a national campaign which aims to address the growing aggression and violence aimed at ambulance staff.

The Work Without Fear campaign has been instigated because of a growing number of ambulance staff reporting being abused or attacked. Nationally, nearly 12,000 staff – an increase of 35 per cent in the last five years – were targeted but the most significant rise happened during first year of the pandemic when assaults jumped by 23 per cent compared with the year before.

Locally, SECAmb has also seen an increase in reported violence and aggression in the last three years. Numbers have jumped from 584 reported cases in 2019 to 921 last year – an increase of more than 50 per cent – including 287 reported physical assaults. When aggravating factors were reported, drugs and alcohol came top followed by mental health.

SECAmb Violence Reduction Officer, Dave Monk said: “We will not tolerate violence or aggression towards staff and the fact this resulted in a custodial sentence shows that the courts are taking assaults on emergency workers seriously. It is not OK for staff to come to work and be subjected to these types of behaviours. We will do all we can to pursue suspects through the criminal justice system and we encourage anyone who is subjected to violence or aggression of any kind to report it so we those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

Acting Detective Inspector Ian Watkins, of Kent Police's East Kent Vulnerability Investigation Team, said: “Emergency service workers have a right to do their job helping the public without fear of violence and assaults of this kind are completely unacceptable. I hope the message from this case is clear: Anyone who assaults a member of any emergency service faces robust action.”