There’s been much reporting in the media over the last few days about the intolerable work stresses being faced by paramedics, resulting in the loss of over 184,000 working days over the last 4 years across 7 out of 10 of England’s NHS regional health services. Shocking statistics. Frightening facts.
Health unions and paramedics say issues such as response target pressures, long shifts and the inevitable emotional impacts of dealing with critical situations on a daily basis are compounding the problem, meaning those who assist in emergency situations are, in fact, requiring intervention and support themselves.
No-one, whatever their occupation, should be subjected to unrealistic demands and expectation and employers need to limit the platitudes and lip service and start taking some responsibility and accountability for their employee’s mental health welfare, by tackling the issues that are creating unhealthy working environments and staff absence through mental health related illnesses.
In short, employers that push too hard and expect too much need lessons in humanity, because the financial losses to them through lost working days will, at some point, impact and, in turn, upon the efficiency and quality of the services they aim to deliver to their clients. It is time for employers to invest properly. It’s time they started to care.
Paramedics are in no different a situation to many other industries – taxi drivers, call centre staff – everyone is under a degree of pressure, both to perform and obtain results. But, and there is a big but, alongside doctors and nurses, these first responders can make the difference between life and death and if they’re out on sick leave, who’s going to step in and fill the void?
Leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, secured statistics via a freedom of information request and whilst we should be concerned about the current trends, with figures for the first 9 months of 16/17 indicating a rise on the 15/16 days lost (41,412), we should be positively frightened by how much worse the situation will become unless direct action is taken immediately.
As quoted in the Guardian online by Dennis Campbell on 2 April : “A survey of ambulance staff undertaken by the union Unite last year found that 89% of ambulance staff said that morale and motivation in their workplace was falling and 88% identified stress as the main reason for that. In the same poll 91% of the 362 ambulance crews questioned said their workloads were growing and 85% said they worked beyond their contracted hours.”
All the warning signs are there – the ambulance service is heading for a catastrophic meltdown unless care and understanding are extended to those who care for us.
Below is a link to Peter’s story. Peter has been a paramedic for almost 20 years and has spoken to the Guardian about the stresses facing the ambulance service.
If you’re a paramedic, or have a family member or friend working in the service and would like to share your experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org