Violence against healthcare workers continues to increase in Sweden. In just a few years, the number of reports of violence against ambulance staff, among others, has increased significantly. The government has recently submitted a new bill to the Swedish Parliament that will impose stricter penalties on those who attack professionals with socially essential functions.
Last year there were 67 reports of threats and violence against ambulance staff while on duty. Five years ago, the figure was 21, reports tax-funded Sweden’s Radio. These range from death threats, gun threats and even physical violence in the form of kicks and punches that staff receive. Sometimes staff are also physically prevented from leaving a site. Fredrik Segerblad, who works as an ambulance driver in Stockholm, has been victimized several times and believes that this sometimes affects the work of helping the injured.
– In events where I have noticed that I have ended up in an unsafe place, we try to get the patient into the car as quickly as possible and move to another point of care, Segerblad says.
In December, a survey was released by Novus on behalf of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, concerning threats and violence in the workplace, and there is also a marked increase in all professional groups in health care. In total, 43% stated that they have experienced verbal threats and 22% have been subjected to or witnessed physical violence in 2022. In 2018, the same figures were 36 and 18% respectively. A similar report on the country’s doctors, also released in December also shows that violence against doctors has increased.
Sineva Ribeiro, President of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, believes that when violence increases in society at large, it also increases for the welfare professions.
– There used to be a perception that you don’t threaten a car with a red cross on it. But that is no longer the case, she says to Vårdfokus.
The government has proposed an amendment to the law that would increase the penalties for attacks on professional groups with socially useful functions, such as healthcare, but would also apply to journalists, among others. Ribeiro welcomes the proposal, but adds that it does not solve the whole problem.
– Employers must also work more preventively and ensure that everything that happens is reported, she says.
The Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet) is a trade union with a membership of 114,000 representing nurses, midwives, biomedical scientists and radiographers.