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Ambulance staff working under “impossible strain” with 15 hour shifts

PUBLISHED: 14:46 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:46 12 March 2018

East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) crews praised for their work in the snow. Photo: Rob Adams

East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) crews praised for their work in the snow. Photo: Rob Adams

Rob Adams

A survey of more than 900 frontline East of England Ambulance staff has highlighted long shifts and difficult working conditions at the Trust over the past year.

The UNISON survey highlighted the impact on mental health and revealed hundreds of staff are now regularly working 14 and 15 hour shifts. Some staff had worked 18 or 19 hour shifts.

UNISON branch secretary Fraer Stevenson 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.

He added: “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 cancelled 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.’

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “The Trust 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.”

An EEAST spokesman said the wellbeing of their staff is of “paramount importance”.

“We know and recognise being very late off duty is one of the biggest issues that face our frontline staff. We have tried, in partnership with UNISON locally, to find solutions and have trialled a number of initiatives over the past 18 months but these have not achieved the desired outcomes. Ultimately we know both the underlying issue and the solution sits in having an increased level of ambulances and staffing and this comes with more funding.

“We will continue to work with staff and UNISON to explore a sustainable solution that ensures we address this issue and keeps our patients safe.”

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