NEARLY 600 ambulance workers have been attacked doing their job in the past three years, shocking new figures show.

And the number of attacks on paramedics is rising, despite a campaign being launched to help reduce assaults on staff.

A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “Unfortunately it is a sad fact that members of our frontline staff are often at risk of physical violence from members of the public and this continues to be a huge area of concern.

“Our frontline staff are highly skilled medical practitioners and spend their working lives helping others — it is abhorrent that they face this level of abuse from the very people they are trained to help.

“This year has seen a rise in the number of reported physical assaults, but this rise could be due to increased staff awareness of the importance of reporting incidents.”

From April 2007 to April 2008 there were 234 physical assaults on North West Ambulance Service employees, 169 from 2008 to 2009, and 178 last year, slightly up on the previous year.

The region ranks as the second worst area in the country for attacks, after London.

In the two years from April 2008 to 2010 there were a further reported 619 verbal assaults.

A campaign to crack down on abuse faced by staff was launched in November 2008.

And over the last year all frontline staff were trained in resolution techniques to help them deal with situations.

However, despite the service signing an agreement with police and prosecutors to ensure violent patients are prosecuted, the GMB union says less than half actually are.

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer for ambulance services, said: “The figures are as shocking as they are unacceptable.

Being attacked at work is now an occupational hazard for ambulance workers and the only way to confront this issue is with zero tolerance.

“The figures for prosecutions in the North West show that there is some way to go before we achieve zero tolerance.

“There, less than half of the reported cases led to prosecutions.”

The ambulance service spokesman added: “We work very closely with the police, the CPS and the courts and will always push for the maximum sentence should any of our staff be assaulted.

“Last year, 43 incidents resulted in a successful prosecution, with sanctions given by the courts including imprisonment, community service, monetary fines, curfews and electronic tagging.”