Paramedics are at ‘breaking point’
PARAMEDICS in the region are at breaking point due to stress, say union bosses.
One 999 crew member, a former military medic, said he felt under more strain now than during army tours of Afghanistan. Another said they were so stressed, they were sicker than many patients.
Long hours, staff shortages and the mental demands of the profession are placing an enormous burden on ambulance workers in the north west, according to the study, by Unison.
More than 90 per cent of the 153 staff surveyed reported suffering with stress with huge numbers of staff reportedly leaving the North West Ambulance Service. Three quarters said they were suffering with sleep problems as a result of stress.
Some 63 per cent said they felt irritable and experienced mood swings, while 58 per cent said they had suffered from anxiety.
More than a third said they had to take time off sick because of workrelated stress and more than a quarter admitted they were close to doing so.
One paramedic, who asked not to be named, said: “All that takes priority is hitting targets, and turnaround times.
“Crews can work for eight or nine hours without getting a break. Then we finish late – that has a huge impact on our family time.
“The attitude is – if you don’t like it find another job.”
Another worker in the region said: “Morale is so low that experienced staff are leaving in large numbers as they are so are sick of the service.”
Some 59 per cent admitted they did not tell their employer the reason they were off sick was stress. Only one in ten said they would talk to a manager or a supervisor to cope with stress.
And 81pc admitted they had thought about leaving the job.
Unison bosses say they are concerned employers are not fulfilling their duty of care, with two-thirds of respondents saying they were unaware of any steps being taken to reduce stress.
Unison’s north west head of health, Amy Barringer, said: “Working in emergency services is stressful but the pressure on ambulance staff is reaching dangerously high levels.
“It is unacceptable that the current system doesn’t allow for proper breaks between shifts. Workers have told us they often work 14-hour shifts without a decent break.
“Higher call-out rates and lengthy waits outside A&E departments are add- ing to the problem. It is clear that the pressure caused by government funding cuts is having a huge impact on staff and on patient safety.
“This confirms the findings from the NHS staff survey that shows much greater pressure on staff in the ambulance service than any other part of the NHS.” NORTH West Ambulance Service bosses say the 153-person survey represents just three per cent of its 5,100 workforce.
Lisa Ward, deputy director of organisational development, said: “In the national NHS survey last year, we saw a number of stress-related indicators improve and the percentage of staff suffering work-related stress was in line with the average for the ambulance sector as a whole.
“We also improved in overall job satisfaction and staff recommending NWAS as a place to work.
“This is a more balanced portrayal of staff views and is based on much higher response rates.
“Traditionally ambulance services in England have always had a higher sickness level then other NHS trusts, particularly with cases of stress, due to the nature of the work frontline staff do and NWAS is no different.
“Cases of stress do fall in line with a rise in activity and last year, the NWAS saw an increase in demand of six pc compared to the previous year.
“Despite this, the percentage of staff working additional hours has decreased.”
Bosses say an internal health and wellbeing survey has been undertaken and is carrying forward a number of recommendations as a result.