The stress faced by frontline ambulance staff in the East of England Ambulance Service is set out in a hard hitting film released by UNISON today (Monday). The six minute film is being released as staff are about to be balloted on industrial action over a lack of rest breaks and enforced overtime that can result in 12 hour shifts over-running by up to six hours.
The video can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/166925830
Shifts are meant to last no more than 12 hours but according to UNISON regularly overrun, resulting in staff working 13 to 18-hour days or nights. Earlier this year a crew was forced to work a shift that stretched to 20 ½ hours. UNISON claims that 2,995 shifts finished more than an hour later than planned in December 2015 and in January 2016 this rose to 3,639.
UNISON branch secretary Fraer Stevenson, said: “The decision to consider industrial action was taken after 12 months of negotiations failed to achieve any positive changes. During that time 355 frontline staff left the ambulance service.
“Excessive working hours are a danger to the safety of both patients and staff. We are asking for a 45 minute meal break, a 20 minute break later in the shift and for crews to return to base at the end of their shift and only be asked to attend the highest category of calls while en route back to base.
“The film makes for tough viewing. Staff were very open about how their jobs have affected them and how the pressures from enforced overtime and a lack of breaks is making their work much harder.
“Morale is very low and hundreds of staff have already left, which has placed more pressure on the remaining staff. We need the ambulance trust to seriously look at ways to keep staff in the job and not just focus on recruitment to replace those who have left.
“Staff are the most precious resource we have. The pressures are driving staff from their jobs and that is a huge risk to patient safety. The ambulance service needs to properly support its staff and we hope this film moves them to do the right thing so we can pull back from taking strike action.
“We are reaching out to managers in the trust – as people, as parents and as guardians of our ambulance trust – because it is within their gift to do more for their staff. Inaction is costing the ambulance trust and the communities it serves valuable and experienced frontline staff.”
UNISON issued the ambulance trust with a ballot notice for industrial action last week. After the notice was sent UNISON says a planned meeting with the chief executive was cancelled by the trust at short notice. UNISON has approached the arbitration service ACAS for assistance and will start discussions with the ambulance trust tomorrow (Tuesday) in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
UNISON is urging the public to show their support for local ambulance crews by signing an e-petition www.putbacktheheart.com/epetition