AN AMBULANCE worker was kicked in the face after responding to a 999 call, in the latest in a series of attacks against staff in the north west.

The female ambulance technician was attending to a drunk woman in the back of her vehicle in Blackburn, when the patient became aggressive and ‘kicked out’ at her, police said.

The 38-year-old technician suffered bruising to her face and needed hospital treatment.

This latest incident comes after three North West Ambulance Service crew members were assaulted on New Year’s Eve, while two paramedics were held hostage at knifepoint for 90 minutes in Salford on Thursday morning.

Statistics suggest attacks on ambulance staff have increased sharply in recent years, and a special committee has been set up to tackle the issue in the north west.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “People who assault any public servant in the operation of their duty are complete morons as far as I’m concerned. Our ambulance crews are saving lives every day and what they certainly don’t need is people attacking them. This is really worrying and I just hope it won’t prevent anyone from wanting to be a paramedic.”

A spokesman for NWAS said the ambulance crew had responded to a 999 call at an address in Burnley at 11.10am on Wednesday for a patient complaining of fainting and unconsciousness.

The spokesman would not provide a more specific location, however, citing patient confidentiality.

The assault took place while the vehicle was parked at Royal Blackburn Hospital, according to Lancashire Police.

Last year, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed there had been 200 physical assaults on north west ambulance staff in the six-month period to October, including 21 incidents in East Lancashire, the third highest figure in the region.

Directly comparable figures were not available, but a report by NHS Protect said there were 268 incidents over the whole year from April 2010 to March 2011, which was a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.

Steve Rice, branch secretary for the GMB union at NWAS, said: “These incidents have always been a concern and there’s anecdotal evidence that they are on the increase.

“It’s a difficult one but we are in talks with management about ways we can alleviate this and have recently set up a special committee to look at it.”

Ian Walmsley, NWAS sector manager, said: “We are currently investigating the incident and are, of course, working with the police to ensure that the person responsible is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“Violence and aggression of any kind towards our staff will not be tolerated. NWAS fully supports staff members who become victims of assault and encourages them to report incidents to the police.”

Lancashire Police said a 60-year-old woman from Brierfield was due to be interviewed in relation to Wednesday’s incident, but she had not been arrested.