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Doctors back legislation against assault on emergency staff

Doctors have backed a bill to tackle the rising tide of assaults on emergency workers.

The private members' bill, Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences), has been put forward by Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant and received its second reading in Commons last week.

It proposes tougher prison sentences for people who attack emergency-service workers by introducing a series of new criminal offences.

Assaults against NHS staff have risen significantly in recent years, from 59,744 in 2011/12 to 70,555 in 2015/16 and the BMA has urged Mr Bryant to extend the bill to cover all health service staff.

Speaking in Parliament last Friday, Mr Bryant thanked the BMA for its ‘important advice’ on the bill, as well as UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the National AIDS Trust, a charity.

The BMA also called for an extension to the definition of emergency worker in the bill to include NHS staff working outside emergency care.

‘An assault on anyone is wrong,’ he told MPs. ‘But an attack on any emergency worker — whether that is a police constable, a paramedic, an ambulance driver, an accident and emergency doctor or nurse, a fire officer, a prison officer, someone working in search and rescue, or someone working on a lifeboat — is an attack on us all.’

Private members' bills often fail to become law as Parliamentary time to consider new legislation is set by Government.

Ministers have indicated their support for the bill in future but stopped short of adopting it, a move which would improve its chances of success.

The Conservative Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said it was ‘entirely right that we should protect emergency services from abuse and violence … We will make our best efforts to bring forward his bill as soon as we can’.

The bill also proposes new powers to compel blood and saliva samples from people who spit or bite emergency workers. It is likely, given the ethical dynamic of compelling an individual to provide a blood sample, there will be further discussion on this point as the bill moves to its committee stage in the coming months.

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