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