Paramedics are at ‘break­ing point’

Wilmslow Express - - NEWS -

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.

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