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“We get beaten up, assaulted and sworn at just for trying to help people”, paramedic reveals abuse faced by NHS workers

A paramedic from Bedford has exposed the abuse faced by ambulance staff.

A paramedic from Bedford has exposed the abuse faced by ambulance staff, lifting the lid on the verbal and physical assault they experience while trying to help patients.  

Emily Howarth, 26, has revealed the shocking reality of life on the road as a paramedic for the East of England ambulance service. She spoke out about her experiences as part of the eye care specialist Optical Express’s ‘Thanks a Million’ campaign, which aims to thank NHS and emergency service workers for the extraordinary work they do.

Emily has shone a light on the trauma that NHS workers go through on a daily basis as well as the challenging situations they deal with. She described a day when she had to take care of four different patients, all of whom were going to lose their lives in the next 24 hours. 

“The hardest thing during the pandemic was taking patients to hospital knowing they would likely die, and not being able to let them take their relatives. You get a snapshot of a patient’s life when they are with loved ones in the back of the ambulance, so it was really hard to do things like taking children into hospital who were only allowed one parent by their side at the end.”

“I know colleagues who have been beaten up, assaulted and sworn at while trying to help patients on drugs or alcohol, or people who haven’t got an ambulance quickly enough”, says Howarth, who works in the emergency clinical assessment and triage team.

Emily exposes the shocking impact of record ambulance waiting times, not only on patients, but also paramedics: “People abuse us a lot. It would be nice not to get shouted at or sworn at when we are taking too long to get to patients – because believe me, we’re horrified about the delays too and feel so guilty.”

Emily spoke about her experiences as an ambulance paramedic as part of Optical Express’s ‘Thanks a Million’ campaign, which is helping NHS and emergency service workers by donating another £1 million worth of free laser eye surgery. Some of the challenges of Emily’s job have been eased by the free laser eye surgery, as she no longer worries about breaking her glasses, or her contact lenses falling out during a shift. Emily recalled how wearing glasses made it harder to help patients: “My glasses used to steam up so I couldn’t see the monitor we use to check oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate – things which can be vital to keeping patients alive.”

David Moulsdale, Optical Express Chairman and CEO, said: “It’s shocking that emergency service workers like Emily have to put up with this kind of abuse when they are making such unbelievable sacrifices for us all. We know that NHS workers don’t get the gratitude or recognition that they deserve. That’s why we launched our ‘Thanks a Million’ campaign, to say thank you to extraordinary people like Emily by transforming their lives with free laser eye surgery.”

The campaign is giving away £1 million worth of free laser eye surgery to NHS and emergency service workers. It is the second time the firm has chosen to thank NHS and Emergency Service workers in this way, and in 2017 Optical Express gave away a further £1 million worth of free laser eye surgery. Over the course of the last two campaigns, £2 million worth of surgery will have been donated to improve the lives of NHS and Emergency Service workers across the country.

Since Optical Express was founded 32 years ago, the team are proud to have supported hundreds of humanitarian and philanthropic projects, donating over £33 million and counting to worthwhile causes in the UK and abroad.