Ambulance crews predict deaths and drug errors if excessive working hours aren’t ended

The East of England Ambulance branch have produced a shocking film exposing the dangers to staff and patients caused by ambulance crews being required to regularly work excessive hours. In the film paramedics talk about their fears of falling asleep at the wheel, making a drug error or having a road accident.

Because crews are required to respond to a call right up to the last minute of their shift they can frequently find themselves having to work for up to 15 hours a day, ending their shift many miles from their base station.  Unsurprisingly, many staff are suffering from exhaustion and stress due to excessive working hours is the number cause of sickness absence.

In order reduce the risk of road accidents and drug errors, as well as preventing stress related absence the branch is calling on the ambulance trust to adopt a range of policies. These include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The removal of Green 1 calls in the last 60 minutes.
  • 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).

As well as making a film the branch have launched a petition calling on the Trust board to adopt their proposals. You can sign the petition here