Ambulance crews are being forced to endure verbal and physical abuse when they attend calls to help members of the public.
New figures from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) revealed that 48 frontline staff were physically attacked in 2013 while attending incidents where they had been called to help, and a further 119 were threatened or verbally abused.
Incidents ranged from paramedics being kicked or punched in the face, to being spat on.
The number of assaults over the course of the year has fallen by nine on the previous year, and is 39 lower than in 2011.
Incidents included a patient in Ashington who kicked a paramedic in the face. They were ordered to pay compensation.
In another attack, a patient who spat at a paramedic in Blyth was given a community order and was electronically tagged for 16 months.
And a patient in Ashington who grabbed and punched a paramedic’s arm was given a community order.
In Morpeth, a patient who punched a staff member in the arm was convicted of common assault, and another patient who spat at a crew member in Cramlington was fined.
David Edwards, risk officer for NEAS, said: “While it’s encouraging that the number of assaults suffered by our frontline crews has dropped over the last three years, it still happens far too often for our liking.”
He added: “We have been very pro-active in recent years with the ambulance crews, encouraging them to report any incident where they are threatened or attacked.
“Historically, verbal abuse or being physically attacked was considered by some to be one of the risks of the job. It shouldn’t be.
“Equally, we have been repeating publicly that NEAS has a zero tolerance to anyone who behaves this way towards our staff.
“Our ambulance crews work extremely hard doing a difficult job in all kinds of situations.
“I wish to remind some members of the public that our crews’ sole objective is to help people who need medical attention.
“For those members of the public that choose to ignore this and involve themselves in criminal activity against ambulance crews, rest assured the victim and the ambulance service will seek appropriate sanctions.
“Why some people ever feel the need to become aggressive with an ambulance crew is completely baffling.”
The NEAS say this year’s fall is no cause for celebration – and that ambulance crews should not have to endure any of these types of attacks.