Ambulance vandalism: Bins and scooters used in attacks

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Media captionAmbulances have been targeted with fireworks, bottles, wheelie bins and scooters

Fireworks, wheelie bins, knives and scooters have all been used to attack ambulances and rapid response vehicles in the past three years, a BBC freedom of information request has found.

More than 200 acts of vandalism were reported between 2015 and October, some also featuring metal poles and bricks.

NHS trusts have had to pay thousands of pounds to repair damage and take ambulances off the road for repairs.

Unison has called for bigger sentences for anyone convicted of such vandalism.

The BBC approached the UK's 14 NHS ambulance trusts and received responses from all of them except Northern Ireland.

The replies revealed there were 204 instances of vandalism, including people head-butting ambulance bonnets, blue lights being stolen and windows being smashed.

In the North East a patient with a metal pole caused damage that cost £3,500 to repair, while in London a microwave was thrown at an ambulance.

'It really affected me'

Image copyright North East Ambulance Service
Image caption Student paramedic Tony Traynor was left bruised and scratched

On 2 November 2017 a crew from the North East Ambulance Service was taking a patient up to Scotland when a bottle was thrown through the passenger window.

Student paramedic Tony Traynor was driving the ambulance, and ended up with scratches and a bruise under his eye.

He said: "It's the shock more than anything; I'm normally quite robust, I've been in the Army, but you're not expecting something like that to happen to you in that sort of environment.

"I've never been upset in this job but this has really affected me, it's had a greater impact on me than I thought it would.

"It's really sad and sickening that someone could do something like this. We were on blue lights and sirens so it was obvious we were travelling on an emergency."

At present, vandalism causing up to £5,000 of damage carries a maximum sentence of three months in prison.

The government recently increased the maximum jail term for anyone assaulting ambulance staff from six to 12 months.

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Colm Porter from the Unison union said the two offences should carry "similar penalties".

"We have crews in the back of ambulances treating poorly patients and they are seeing bricks, glass and stones, in some cases chairs and tables, thrown at them," he said.

"You can repair ambulances but it can take a lot longer for staff to get over what they have been through."

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "It's absolutely unacceptable for anyone to deliberately damage emergency service vehicles or other essential kit.

"They are consciously inhibiting the ability of our enormously hardworking and dedicated paramedics to do their jobs, and it risks taking ambulances off the road."

Association of Ambulance Chief Executives managing director Martin Flaherty said vandalism "takes valuable resources off the road that could be out responding to sick and injured patients".

"We would always press for all perpetrators found guilty of such acts to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," he added.

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