The only sustainable way to address performance, is to deal with the reasons why staff are leaving, or needing to go sick.

Retention & Sickness
Almost 30 front-line staff voted with their feet in July, which is the highest number of staff we have ever had leave in any single month. Sickness has also increased, with the number one sickness issue across the trust continuing to be stress and mental health; the only sustainable way to address performance, is to deal with the reasons why staff are leaving, or needing to go sick.

Culture change starts with demonstrable action
Our Board has a duty to support staff and address the issues that are causing stress, sickness and driving staff to leave. We should not accept that there is nothing that can be done from evidenced issues, or wait for someone externally to rescue us – we have the ability and power to address many issues internally.

Genuine culture change must start from Board level down – and this must be by demonstrable actions, not just words. Board members and all Directors should lead by example and we should hold them to account for their behaviour.

Given the ongoing casework we deal with and other recent events involving Directors, as a Branch Committee we voted unanimously last week to ask the Trust to bring in the same consultancy as the London Ambulance Service over bullying in the workplace. This has been communicated to Robert Morton.

You can read the LAS report here.

Casework delays
From data provided by the Trust, 50% of the dignity at work complaints and grievances closed in May, June and July took between 200 – 500 days to complete.

The length of time taken to complete investigations, as well as the time taken to provide information through Freedom of Information (FOI) and Subject Access requests (SAR) is a good barometer over the openness of any public body.

We continue to see significant delays in FOI and a recent case of a member who is still waiting, over 9 months after raising the request, for a SAR to be concluded. This is completely unacceptable.

Late finishes
This week I reviewed the data for June and July over late finishes. It’s disappointing that the trust continues to make promises over an incremental pilot that came in during May and the data clearly identifies a worsening of late finishes in July. The only increment to the pilot so far, since it was put in place, is to ask crews to volunteer to be late off for a lower acuity call.

Having presented a paper to the Board in April over this issue, which staff identified in February as a top stressor, it appears the trust is now not prepared to continue with incremental changes to address this issue.

Continuing to refer to late finishes ‘as a priority’ isn’t helpful without any genuine action.

Recently a crew in Suffolk worked an 18 hour shift and we believe from a survey of 1541 staff, staff feedback, and the results of the data taken from timesheets for June and June; this issue is already well evidenced.  

We have been clear over the need to bring in a form of intelligent Xray to better protect staff. 

We are now seeking external assistance to further this and other issues.

Annual leave
Figures obtained under the Freedom of information act show in one SLM area 65% of staff were unable to take their annual leave entitlement over the past 12 months; in that same SLM area,1300 days of annual leave were refused.

The highest percentage of refusals for leave over the past 12 months was across the EOCs – with over 85% of EOC staff having leave refused.

I’m waiting for further FOI to clarify if any staff have lost statutory leave, as well as contractual leave.

National pilot – Dispatch on disposition
Ambulance Trusts were asked to put themselves forwards to be further pilot sites, as well as LAS and SWAS continuing with the pilot, which allows trusts more time to triage calls, prior to dispatch:

The feedback from SWAS staffside has been very positive – with staff reporting this has reduced pressure on them as well as helping relations between EOC and frontline. Disappointingly EEAST has not put itself forwards as a pilot site, although UNISON will be keeping a close eye on the developments from this pilot.

Trade union bill
Last week Parliament passed the second reading of a bill, which if it becomes legislation, will severely impact the work we’re able to do on your behalf.

Given the governments plans to review 7 day working, including unsocial hours payments in the NHS, this is most definitely an attack on trade unions and our ability to stand up for you over pay and conditions in the NHS.

Please help us protect your unsocial hour payments and your other terms and conditions, write to, email, or better still visit your MP in your constituency.

We need your help to lobby your MP – who has a duty to represent their constituents in Parliament. We’ll be uploading onto our website a template letter members can send to their MP, asking them to lobby government and oppose this damaging bill.

You can check how your MP voted on this bill here:

Public consultation
The government has launched a public consultation, looking at how the emergency services can work more closely together. This includes change to legislation that would have an impact on Ambulance sector – potentially across all directorates, please can you take the time to have your say. The consultation closes on 23rd October.

National Media 
National media is planned towards the end of the year to highlight the reasons why frontline staff are leaving and help lobby for national changes to the target driven culture. If you know anyone who has left EEAST and would be happy to speak to a producer of a very credible national documentary, please ask them to contact me:

Kind regards,


Fraer Stevenson

UNISON Branch Secretary

East of England Ambulance Branch 20106

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11 Responses to The only sustainable way to address performance, is to deal with the reasons why staff are leaving, or needing to go sick.

  1. Jayne Denton says:

    too many “new” managers trying to make their mark on the service have totally ruined it.. Instead of trying to find out why experienced staff had problems both pshycological and physical? I blatantly had a GM say “i was taking the P” with sickness.. Im so glad I left the service at this time… It shows you the inadequencies, and desperatation of the inexperienced so called managers and their underlings at this time! In my instance they through away nearly 30 yrs experience at all levels to try and make themselves look good!! Instead of helping .. The encouragement that would have lasted 25-20 years!!
    Its ok, lads and lasses I appear to have the last laugh on double the money working for an agency without your inappropriate manament structure… I am not alone… When will wake up to this


  2. Steve Wilson says:

    I believe I now suffer with depression over my work conditions
    And people might say why don’t you leave. I didn’t take on
    Any job so that I could just leave. I enjoy doing what I do.
    I just find being late the single most stressful factor after
    Spending a lot of the day being on on time for everyone else.
    This month I wasn’t paid my overtime and late finishes.
    So when I saw my wage slip I didn’t have any motivation.


  3. Gavin Webb says:

    Figures obtained under the Freedom of information act show in one SLM area 65% of staff were unable to take their annual leave entitlement over the past 12 months; in that same SLM area,1300 days of annual leave were refused. What SLM area was this? Essex I suspect???


  4. laurie milton says:


    Thank you for that. Let no one be under any uncertainty, experienced long serving staff are expensive to keep, however new staff who PAY for their training (so that’s cheap) and have no pension (so that’s cheap too)


  5. Rebecca says:

    Well said Fraer. with performance nose diving its hell out there – chased from start to finish. More staff will be forced to go sick or leave. I hope ‘the board’ have a plan that does not involve more fleecing of their staff.


  6. Adrian says:

    I lost over 3 weeks leave after putting in 25 requests – most were refused. In the end I went sick with stress. Thanks Frayer for standing up for us.


  7. bob Hemsley says:

    BoB H

    I had 7 requests for a/l turned down


  8. Pete Bendell says:

    To add insult to injury I have heard staff say now that they have been asked if they are over 2 hours late finishing, DID YOU REALLY FINISH AT THAT TIME?,
    I find this a insult and these people should be getting a appology not a question like that.
    These people are not in unison but other unions,
    I have not had it happen to me yet so cant comment if it is 100% genuine but I will take it further if I do as I class it as a accusation that you are committing fraud and even bullying on the management side.
    I dont know if anyone else has been aware of this policy.


  9. Roger Hughes says:

    Time and time again the Essex management culture of ‘Command and Control’ is still with us.
    The Trust need to address the issues with the Essex SMT especially the South East sector style of management……


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