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Ambulance boss admits 'much more' to do after paramedics speak out over sexual harassment and misogyny

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Published Time: 22.02.2024 - 01:41:05 Modified Time: 22.02.2024 - 01:41:05

Current and former paramedics told Sky News that sexual harassment in the job is widespread

Current and former paramedics told Sky News that sexual harassment in the job is widespread.

News correspondent @rachaelvenables

Wednesday 21 February 2024 21:53, UK

The head of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives has admitted to MPs it needs "to do much more to make the experience of student paramedics better" after Sky News revealed they face misogyny on a "weekly, if not daily basis".

Daren Mochrie was giving evidence to the women and equalities committee when chair Caroline Noakes raised our investigationwhich found female paramedics experience "incessant" misogyny and harassment from colleagues.

One former paramedic said she tried to take her own life after being locked in the back of an ambulance and sexually assaulted by another paramedic.

Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics, said female students are particularly vulnerable to harassment.

Some reported being pressured into dates with older male paramedics, or being asked for explicit photographs in exchange for getting placements approved.

In response, Mr Mochrie, who also leads the North West Ambulance Service, said: "We're working closely with our higher education institutions to make sure they are talking and living and breathing all the stuff that we have spoken about today, and we're also working with the College of Paramedics.

"Where it becomes an ambulance service responsibility is where the students come on placement in the ambulance services across the UK. We do have that in our sights and we know we need to do more to make that experience for students better.

"And the vast majority of our students are female, which is a good thing, but we do have that in our sights."

Ms Noakes asked: "Is it fair to say your female staff are arriving to you already victims?"

She pressed him again: "Is it fair to say the education system is not protecting your female staff before they arrive in the ambulance service?"

Mr Mochrie acknowledged it was a "good question".

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For much of the session, Mr Mochrie had been praising the work that his and other ambulance services had done to deal with harassment against female paramedics.

He talked repeatedly about the need to tackle "banter" and said when he started 30 years ago he witnessed "unwarranted and unacceptable behaviour by patients and members of staff against female paramedics".

But he stressed he had since seen "a massive shift, actually, and it is gradually getting better".

Current female paramedics have told Sky News they fear their bosses are happy to talk about "tackling banter" but unwilling to tackle genuine harassment and sexual assault.

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One womanwho has been in the job for more than a decadesaid a colleague she reported for sending her a sexually explicit video has since been promoted.

Last week, a report by NHS England found bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, were "deeply rooted" in ambulance trusts.

An NHS spokesperson said: "Any form of sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the NHS.

"NHS England is taking action to ensure the safety of patients, staff and students by rolling out better reporting mechanisms, training and support as part of the NHS's new Sexual Safety Charter, and all trusts and local health systems have been asked to appoint a domestic abuse and sexual violence lead, with more than 300 now in place across England.

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