THE South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is continuing to take a zero tolerance approach to any form of abuse towards its staff after an increase in the number of rep-orted assaults in the past year.

Between February 1, 2013, and January 31, 2014, the Trust rec-eived 104 reports of physical abuse to front line crews.

The type of injuries staff rec-eived ranged from cuts, bruises and sprains through to more serious injuries, such as dislocations and fractures.

Out of these, 73 were reported to the police and in 22 cases the patient was arrested.

In cases resulting in a successful prosecution punishments have ranged from a suspended sentence and community service orders to restorative orders and fines.

A number of more serious cases are still awaiting a court date.

Anne Payne, the Trust’s Health, Safety and Security Manager, said: “All reports of violence and agg-ression towards crews are taken seriously.

“Where there’s sufficient evidence the Trust places a warning marker on the patient’s address, and sends a letter to the patient regarding their behaviour and the consequences should their behaviour continue.”

In the past year, 187 letters were sent to patients who were verbally abusive or physically assaulted crews.

Only two patients re-offended and the warning marker on their property was upgraded to include ‘Police Attendance Advised.’ Ken Wenman, SWASFT chief executive, said: “The Trust takes assaults on staff extremely seriously, and any abuse, verbal or physical, will not be tolerated.

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