UNISON releases hard hitting campaign film over working conditions of frontline Ambulance staff in EEAS

‘You keep going because you care about your community and your patients, but who cares about us?’ Paramedic, East of England Ambulance Service.

UNISON surveyed over 900 frontline staff from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS). The survey highlighted the impact on mental health, following a worsening in working conditions over the past year. The survey also highlighted hundreds of staff are now regularly working 14 and 15-hour shifts. Some staff had worked 18 or 19-hour shifts.

UNISON wrote to the EEAS Chief Executive in September 2017, after written commitments made in April 2017 to bring in specific measures to reduce enforced overtime were not honoured.

The Trust then went on to remove a staff support desk and other supportive measures in October 2017.

Fraer Stevenson UNISON Branch Secretary said, ‘Staff have spoken to us about the impact of the removal of supportive measures in October. They say this has made things much worse. Morale is rock bottom, sickness relating to mental health – the number one reason for sickness – reached a record high in December. Our members are at breaking point and the Trust needs to step up and start doing the right thing by their staff.’

Fraer Stevenson continued, ‘The Trust has been saying it’s going to do more for staff to reduce late finishes, whilst doing the opposite. Recent meetings with the Trust over this issue have been canceled with less than 24 hours notice, and at one meeting in a Directors office, the Director simply did not turn up. Inaction is costing the Ambulance Trust and the communities it serves valuable and experienced frontline staff. Working 14 or 15 hours regularly should not be seen as acceptable. It’s having a devastating effect on our members mental health.’

Norman Lamb, MP for north Norfolk who regularly meets with frontline staff in Norfolk said, ‘The Trust would be very foolish to ignore this film. They have extraordinarily loyal and dedicated staff but they are working under impossible strain and are often having to deal with distressed patients and relatives when they themselves are in a state of exhaustion. The long delays to get to patients which have got much worse over this winter simply adds further strain and distress. I find it extraordinary that the Trust leadership fail to attend meetings or cancel at short notice. They must finally deliver on their commitment to sort out this problem. Resources are tight and the NHS desperately needs more funds but the Trust also needs to look at how efficiently they are using the resources they’ve got.’

Editors notes 

  1. Link to the film: https://vimeo.com/256242483
  2. All of the commentary used in the film are verbatim quotes from frontline Ambulance staff.
  3. Actors have been used in the film to protect the identities of staff.
  4. The NHS staff survey results for the East of England Ambulance Service, released this month, shows this service has the lowest score nationally for support from immediate line managers and that less staff than 2015 believed the organisation and management were interested and took action over health and wellbeing.
  5. Norman Lamb MP for North Norfolk, raised this issue during an adjournment debate on the East of England Ambulance Service (2nd February 2018):  On late finishes, staff regularly work 14-hour to 15-hour shifts, but no data has been available from the trust to the staff side since February last year. In September, the trust removed the staff support desk, which was there to provide support to staff who were working very long shifts. No data has been made available by the trust to the staff side on “tail breaches”—these very long delays in getting to patients. The trust claims an exemption under FOI. That is symptomatic of a trust that fails to be open with staff representatives and with the public it is supposed to be serving. Norman Lamb MP for north Norfolk.

For further comment please contact:

Fraer Stevenson (UNISON Branch Secretary) on 07900 808563  fraer.stevenson@gmail.com

To request an interview with Norman Lamb, please contact Ed Keyser on ed.keyser@parliament.uk or 020 7219 8480.

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