UNISON have launched a film as part of a campaign to help support Frontline Ambulance staff in the East of England Ambulance Service.
Fraer Stevenson UNISON Branch Secretary said, “We interviewed staff from around the Trust and the experiences they shared were very upsetting. Many felt constantly fatigued from the relentless pressure over late finishes. Some broke down in tears and spoke about leaving the profession. Many had 15 – 20 years experience working on the frontline.”
A recent UNISON survey of 1541 staff revealed the number one stressor was late finishes.
847 staff surveyed said they were considering leaving because of late finishes. In the past 12 months over 230 staff have left the Trust.
Frontline staff routinely work 12 hour shifts, with only a 30 minute unpaid meal break. Shifts can be extended to 13, 14 or 15+ hours.
Frontline staff are tasked to answer calls right up until the last second of their shift, regardless of where they are in the Trust. Crews will often cover hundreds of miles, and can be very far from their base station towards the end of their shift.
Fraer Stevenson continues, “Working for 12 hours is very demanding physically and often emotionally. It is right that at the end of their shift staff can go home to rest. All the staff interviewed wanted to do their best for their patients, and the recent patient satisfaction surveys evidence this – with 100% patient satisfaction.”
Stress and mental health is the number one sickness issue, and more than 60% of staff in UNISONs survey reported they have gone sick with stress, but have not been willing to cite stress as the reason. 67% of staff said stress affected their ability to do their jobs some or all of the time.
UNISON is asking the Trust to implement measures to reduce late finishes and better protect frontline staff by implementing a new policy with:
1. A fatigue clause that allows frontline staff to safely identify when they need to be returned to their base station towards the end of their shift, without fear of reprisals or disciplinary action.
2. A reduction in the calls they can be sent to in the last 30 minutes of their shift – to only include the immediately life threatening calls – Red 1 calls.
3. A form of ‘Intelligent X-ray’ where crews are booked out of service when their travel time to base means they will already incur a late finish.
4. The removal of Green 1 calls in the last 60 minutes.
5. The ability for crews to swap over with oncoming crews, to prevent late finishes for non time critical patients (this already happens in some areas of the Trust).
UNISON is also asking that all future decisions have staff welfare at the Heart.
More details of the campaign and the results from the survey can be found at www.putbacktheheart.com