‘Stressed’ am­bu­lance staff take 240,000 sick days a year

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Stephen Adams HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

AM­BU­LANCE work­ers last year took al­most a quar­ter of a mil­lion days off work, in­clud­ing 50,000 due to stress.

Newly re­leased fig­ures re­veal that staff each took an av­er­age of 12 days off over a year.

Be­tween them, the 20,000 peo­ple who work for Eng­land’s ten main­land NHS am­bu­lance trusts were ab­sent on 240,589 days be­tween July 2017 and June 2018.

Around a fifth was due to ‘anx­i­ety, stress, de­pres­sion and other psy­chi­atric ill­nesses’.

The sta­tis­tics also high­light stark vari­a­tions in rates of sick­ness ab­sence be­tween dif­fer­ent trusts. At South Cen­tral Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, which serves a swathe of the coun­try south-west of Lon­don, the over­all sick­ness ab­sence rate was 6.3 per cent, but at West Mid­lands Am­bu­lance Ser­vice it was 3.4 per cent.

The over­all rate of sick­ness ab­sence is sim­i­lar to NHS nurses, who take about ten days off a year on av­er­age. That is more than dou­ble the 4.1 days that pri­vate sec­tor work­ers take.

Colm Porter, from the Uni­son union, which rep­re­sents many am­bu­lance staff, blamed in­creas­ing de­mands on the ser­vice. He said: ‘De­mand con­tin­ues to rise across the UK, af­fect­ing am­bu­lance teams on the front line and staff in con­trol rooms.

‘This ex­treme pres­sure means a con­stant strug­gle to re­tain ex­pe­ri­enced staff, and un­filled posts only in­crease the strain.’

Melanie Saun­ders, hu­man re­sources di­rec­tor for South Cen­tral Am­bu­lance Ser­vice, said: ‘Emer­gency ser­vice work­ers do un­for­tu­nately suf­fer higher lev­els of work-re­lated stress due to the na­ture of the in­ci­dents which they are ex­posed to. We of­fer our staff a range of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal sup­port if they are feel­ing anx­ious or stressed while at work or out of work.’

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