|I firmly believe that staff are our greatest asset; they are the heart of our Trust.
I have written a lot last year about the need for a change in culture, and it’s hard to understand how an Ambulance Trust full of caring professionals, became an organisation that so desperately needs this change.
As staffside, sometimes it feels like we’re constantly fire fighting. There’s an underlying theme, which I believe fuels all of the ‘fires’ we’re trying to tackle; senior managers have lost sight of the fact the staff are the heart of our organisation.
There have been a number of significant changes that have benefited staff throughout 2014, including up skilling staff, the pay band agreement, recruiting student Paramedics, and bringing in new vehicles; these changes have been the result of having a supportive CEO. This support though does not appear to be replicated down the layers of management. The senior managers, that have autonomy to run their areas, do not appear to make decisions to support and benefit their staff.
I feel very strongly the need to raise performance has become all consuming. The human element, the need to be treated with care and compassion, that staff demonstrate to our patients, and are well respected for, is not given back to them from within the Trust.
We have been asking for more supportive changes for a long time, and after a considerable amount of meetings, emails, discussions, broken promises, delays and excuses, it’s very disappointing senior managers put forwards policy proposals for discussion that would worsen the situation for their staff.
Patient facing staff currently have no time to check their vehicles before responding to calls, which has resulted in SIs where vehicles have lost wheels, where equipment has failed, and staff haven’t been able to give the care they would wish to give. Despite this issue being high on the risk register, and the risk to staff and patients being acknowledged, the Trust has still not implemented protected time to check vehicles.
We have also been asking for specific policy changes that would reduce incidental, for changes to meal breaks to give staff more than a 30 minute undisturbed meal break in a +12 hour shift, and to provide the same protection for lone workers that WMAS staff benefit from.
We have raised concerns over the ‘performance management’ that is being pushed onto crews – chasing them to reduce time onscene, chasing them to reduce time to go mobile, and making their yearly PDR more about performance management, and less about clinical development or support.
Performance increases will come from the new staff on the front-line; not from pushing caring staff that have struggled to cope with the high vacancy rate to breaking point and beyond.
Our attempts to support EOC staff through JE have been delayed, and HR policies signed off at the Staff Partnership Forum have also been delayed by senior managers for months. These policies would benefit all staff by ensuring fair and consistent application of policies, and quite ironically would help reduce delays in dealing with casework.
We also know that the drive to divert funds into ‘Front line services’ has made it a very difficult year for all those in our various support services. We have worked hard to mitigate against the impact of these changes, and to find suitable alternative roles for as many as we could. Moving forward we need to ensure that our overall culture means that all staff are valued and respected for their contribution to the organisation and that they are equally supported in whatever role they play within the trust, with realistic workloads and positive management.
As a result of all of the above, we are launching a campaign to ‘put back the heart,’ into our Trust. Central to this campaign is a staff charter, to ensure all decisions are made with staff support in mind, and we’ll be asking for your help to get your friends, families, patients, and hopefully all EoE managers to sign up.
The staff charter will be much more than nice words; we are asking for specific practical changes, over long standing issues we have been ‘fire fighting’ for many months. Care and support has to be demonstrated by action, and not just words.
It’s hoped this campaign will make all managers pause for thought, and realise the balance between performance and staff welfare is not right in an organisation where the long term number one sickness issue remains mental health and stress.
Culture change does take time, but there are things we can be doing right now, that would immediately help, and delaying any longer is simply not an option.
We must place the staff back at the heart of our Ambulance Trust.
UNISON Branch Secretary
East of England Ambulance Branch 20106
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 07:42|