THE number of violent attacks on ambulance staff in the East of England has risen by more than 10 per cent in the last year.

The East of England Ambulance Service said 140 staff were assaulted in 116 separate incidents in 2010/11, compared to 125 staff assaulted in 94 incidents in 2009/10.

Although the number of incidents in Cambridgeshire was down by one - from 25 - assaults across the region were up. In Essex there 26 incidents (24 last year), Bedfordshire 11 (7), Hertfordshire 10 (14), Norfolk 25 (8) and Suffolk 20 (16).

Danny Daniel, health, safety and security manager for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said assaults against staff, sometimes by the very people they are trying to help, were completely intolerable.

"The trust is continuing to encourage more staff to report incidents which figures will reflect. However, while the overwhelming majority of the people our staff see are extremely supportive and appreciative of their hard work, there is sadly a significant minority whose violent behaviour is absolutely unacceptable.

"These acts of aggression carried out while staff try to go about their day-to-day work helping those in need not only affects those staff themselves but potentially presents challenges in getting resources out to other incidents.

"The ability of ambulance crews to work safely and unhindered is paramount not only for their own wellbeing but also that of other patients, and we totally condemn any violence carried out against them. Such attacks have potentially very serious consequences."

There were a number of successful prosecutions in 2010/11, including a man found guilty of common assault and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment with a further six weeks suspended for 18 months.