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Support for Highland ambulance driver unfairly sacked after acting in self defence

By Val Sweeney

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Mark Harvie was unfairly dismissed as an ambulance driver. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Mark Harvie was unfairly dismissed as an ambulance driver. Picture: James Mackenzie.

The unfair sacking of an Inverness ambulance driver after he acted in self defence has prompted public condemnation.

There have also been calls for tougher action against people targetting emergency service workers.

Mark Harvie, who has 29 years of unblemished service, found himself being threatened by a drunk when he took a patient to the emergency department at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The 61-year-old, of Beauly, feared he was about to be head butted by the man – who was not a patient – and struck him.

He was sacked by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) for gross misconduct but an employment tribunal subsequently ruled he had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him compensation of £22,468.

The incident and his subsequent sacking have prompted criticism from the public on social media.

Evelyn Urquhart commented: "His job should not be dangerous but sadly it can be.

"Hefty fines or jail time for anyone abusing or harming emergency workers must be the rule."

Colline Mackiggan agreed: "We need to have a fairer system for the people we depend upon."

Gerry Reynolds said: "The ambulance service staff who are attacked or threatened deserve the same protections as the rest of our emergency service heroes."

Lianne Cumming was among those calling for Mr Harvie to be reinstated.

"These people are there to help and do a fantastic job," she said. "They do not deserve to take abuse or face being assaulted at work."

Hugh Morgan described Mr Harvie as "a true gentleman" and added: "Doesn't have a vicious bone in him."

Ambulance driver Mark Harvie had taken a patient to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness when he was threatened by a drunk.
Ambulance driver Mark Harvie had taken a patient to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness when he was threatened by a drunk.

GMB Scotland, the biggest union in the SAS, has also said the incident exposes the wider failure to properly protect emergency crews from verbal abuse and violence.

It wants crews to receive specialist training in handling volatile and violent situations, saying figures reveal hundreds of paramedics have been attacked in recent years.

According to Freedom of Information requests from the union, there were 773 attacks formally reported on crew members from 2017/18 to 2021/22. They included 16 sexual assaults.

Last year, 160 assaults were recorded on SAS staff – a five year high.

An SAS spokesperson said there were a range of measures in place to help protect staff from violence and abuse.

"No form of abuse will be tolerated, and we work closely with Police Scotland to take action when incidents are reported," the spokesperson said.

"Staff are trained to undertake dynamic risk assessments and can request immediate help and support where this is required.

"Our staff do a fantastic job, under very difficult circumstances, and we reinforce the importance of de-escalating situations where they can or withdrawing where there is a risk of violence or threat to their personal safety."

The incident happened on an NHS Highland site.

A spokesperson for the health authority said everyone receiving treatment or working in health and social care should be treated with respect.

"We do not condone any wilful act of violence and/or aggression towards our patients or our teams," the spokesperson said.

"We offer training to staff to manage situations where members of the public including people receiving care become aggressive including de-escalation techniques which aim to avoid incidents progressing to serious cases of abuse or violence.

"We actively encourage everyone to report any incident and support is available for who it has impacted on.

"However, we would like to repeat that it is not acceptable for anyone to act aggressively or violently towards anyone else in the places we provide care for individuals, this includes other members of the public and staff."

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