AMBULANCE staff in Scotland have been subjected to hundreds of verbal and physical assaults in the past four years.
New figures show a total of 460 attacks have been recorded since the beginning of 2015.
The majority – 372 – were physical assaults, while 88 were verbal, including spitting.
The highest number of attacks were in 2016, when 163 were recorded. In contrast 40 have been reported so far in 2018.
The figures also show that more than 2,500 addresses in Scotland are currently “red flagged”, meaning ambulance staff cannot enter without a police presence.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “Our emergency services constantly help people and save lives in difficult circumstances, often risking their own safety for others.
“It is disgraceful that anyone would assault them, physically or verbally, as they try to help others.
“While this year does seem to be on course to have fewer attacks, one attack on ambulance staff is one too many.
“More must be done to keep them safe, including tough action from the courts in response to anyone who has assaulted, or threatened, ambulance staff.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Our staff should not have to fear for their safety when treating patients and keeping them safe is of paramount importance to us.
“That is why we have introduced a range of measures to help protect them – individual addresses where staff have previously faced violence or threatening behaviour are automatically flagged to our crews, who can then request additional support, if required.
“Ambulance staff are also trained in managing aggression and assessing risk, enabling them to better judge when they need to wait for support from police, or additional ambulance crews.”
The Emergency Workers Act enables penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both to be imposed for offences against ambulance staff.
The Scottish Government extended the legislation in 2008 to include health professionals working in the community. For more serious attacks offenders can face penalties up to life imprisonment.
In February, John Dorey attacked two paramedics at his home in Wishaw, forcing them to call the police for help.
He was given a 12-month supervision order, prompting union officials to call for tougher sentences for such cases.
The Scottish Government said: “Attacks against our ambulance staff are despicable and the perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms.
“We encourage all NHS organisations to support criminal proceedings against anyone who assaults our staff.”