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Britain: Ambulance Blacklist Puts Patients at Risk

UNITED KINGDOM -- Health campaigners warned yesterday that patient safety may be in danger after it was revealed that ambulance services hold records of households that have a history of violence against paramedics.

Staff called to emergencies at these addresses are advised to wait for the police before entering the premises.

There are an estimated 1,000 attacks a week on health workers and members of the emergency services.

Fear of violence has led to all paramedics in London being offered stab-proof vests to wear on duty, and increasingly, there are calls to hand them out to staff nationally.

Another way of responding to the problem has been for ambulance services to keep a record of addresses where there have been abuse, threats or attacks.

In London, the number of addresses is 1,930 but the service did not specify the reasons why these properties were included.

The north west has the most flagged households at 3,071, but an ambulance service spokesman pointed out that they made up just 0.10 per cent of all residential addresses.

Ambulance workers union UNISON called for the system to be reviewed, warning that there are "serious questions" about how it works.

The union says that paramedics are faced with a moral dilemma, forced to make a difficult choice between their own safety and that of their patients.

UNISON head of health Karen Jennings said: "I think there are serious questions to ask about whether ambulance crews should sit outside if somebody inside is having a heart attack.

"Having said that, if that household has a history of attacking people when they go in, then it doesn't do anybody any good if they were just to rush in and put themselves at risk."

The Patients Association said that flaws in the system could put patients at risk.

Spokeswoman Vanessa Bourne said: "A record like this has to be absolutely accurate and up to date. If they are not, patient safety and lives may be in danger.

"There are many reasons why a patient's behaviour puts them on the register, but they may be the patients most in need of care."

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