UNISON film tells of ambulance staff fear of drug errors and driving accidents caused by stress and exhaustion due to long hours

Trade union UNISON has made a film highlighting the impact of stress on front line ambulance service staff after a recent UNISON survey revealed the number one cause of stress was late finishes. In the film staff talk about falling asleep while driving, worrying about making drug errors and the fearing that they will have a road accident due to being stressed and exhausted.

UNISON says frontline staff routinely work 12 hour shifts, with only a 30 minute meal break.  Shifts can last up to 15 hours or more because staff are required to answer calls right up until the last second of their shift, regardless of where they are in the region.  Crews cover hundreds of miles, and can be far from their base station at the end of their shift

Fraer Stevenson UNISON Branch Secretary said,

“We interviewed frontline staff across the east of England and the experiences they shared were very upsetting.  Many felt constantly exhausted 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.”

The survey showed that over half the staff (847 out of 1541 staff surveyed) said they were considering leaving because of late finishes.  In the past 12 months over 230 staff have left the Trust.  The union is calling for a “fatigue clause” to allow staff to return to their base station towards the end of their shift when they believe that fatigue could prevent them carrying out their work with patients safely.

Fraer Stevenson said,

“Working for 12 hours is very demanding physically and often emotionally. It is only 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 show this – with 100% patient satisfaction.”

UNISON says that stress and mental health is the number one sickness issue, and more than 60% of staff in UNISON’s 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.


For further comment please contact:

Fraer Stevenson (branch secretary) on 07900 808563 and Tim Roberts (regional organiser) on 07432 150523

Editors note:

 Link to the film:


and at https://vimeo.com/128919087

UNISON is also asking that all future decisions have staff welfare at the Heart. More details of UNISONs campaign and the results from the survey can be found at www.putbacktheheart.com

UNISON is asking the Trust to implement measures to reduce late finishes and better protect frontline staff by implementing a new policy with:

  • 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).